08 Sep 2018

An opening round win in the Men’s Singles event at the 2018 ITTF-African Championships in Port Louis, Mauritius, on Friday 7th September by Mikael Joel was a landmark success.

The 15 year old year old beat Gabon’s Andy Bringaud by the narrowest of margins in a full distance seven games contest (5-11, 11-7, 6-11, 14-12, 7-11, 13-11, 11-9) to become the first player from Eritrea to win a match at an officially recognised international tournament.

by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer

Based in Sweden, Mikael Joel is a present in Port Louis alongside colleague Tekle Erfem. Earlier in the day the duo had experienced a Men’s Doubles defeat at the hands of South Africa’s Theo Cogill and Shane Overmeyer (11-4, 11-2, 11-4), whilst in the Men’s Singles opening round, Tekle Erfem had found Nigeria’s Bode Abiodun was from a different planet. He had suffered a straight games reverse (11-1, 11-2, 11-1, 11-2).

Having lived all his life in Sweden, a recent visit to his homeland in Eritrea gave Mikael Joel a chance to be listed among the first group of players to wear the colours of the Central African nation at an ITTF sanctioned event.

“I was born in Sweden, I have always lived there but during one of our visits to Eritrea, my father enquired about the table tennis federation. He was told they were trying to form a team after Eritrea became an ITTF member. I went to their training camp and I played against eight local players; I defeated all of them. It was there I was asked whether I would be interested in representing the country at its first international competition,” Mikael Joel

A pupil of Friskolan Svettparlan School in Karlskrona, living in a country steeped in the sport of table tennis, Mikael Joel was well aware that the 2018 ITTF-African Championships provides a massive opportunity.

“I had to take up the opportunity because it is a rare chance for me to represent my country. I was so excited about this and that I why I came to Mauritius. I must admit that it is a nice experience for me and I have the opportunity to see different players and different styles of play. Wearing the colours of Eritrea is just amazing and I want to cherish every moment I spent playing here in Mauritius.” Mikael Joel

Additional to relishing the moment in Mauritius, Mikael Joel was delighted to meet Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna, the top seed in the Men’s Singles event.

“I am so happy to see that one of the best players in the world has emerged from Africa. Quadri Aruna is for me is a good ambassador for the sport and I have had the opportunity of seeing him for the first time. I have not really had the chance to meet him but from his conduct, he seems to be a friendly guy whose quality showed during the Men’s Team final between Nigeria and Egypt. He is such a good player, I have watched virtually all his matches on video. I am looking forward to learning from him and also to get some tips from him.” Mikael Joel.

Most certainly, for the teenager, who represents Lyckeby BTK in Division Two of the Swedish League, playing in Mauritius has both boosted his confidence and wetted his appetite for international play. Later this year in November he hopes to play in the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open in Stockholm.

In the second round of the Men’s Singles event, on Saturday 8th September, Mikael Joel will face Egypt’s Khalid Assar.

2018 ITTF African Championships: Newsletter – Monday 3rd September

2018 ITTF African Championships: Newsletter – Tuesday 4th September

2018 ITTF African Championships: Newsletter – Wednesday 5th September

2018 ITTF African Championships: Newsletter – Friday 7th September

2018 African Championships Mikael Joel

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Day 7 - 2018 ITTF Africa Championships