by Ian Marshall, Editor (Interview by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer)
Significantly, the next three names in the order of merit have all enjoyed similar success. Egypt’s Ahmed Ali Saleh is the no.2 seed, followed by colleague Omar Assar and Nigeria’s Segun Toriola.
Ahmed Ali Saleh is the member of the group with the most Men’s World Cup appearances, a total of five; the first being in 1998 in Shantou, the most recent in 2011 in Paris. Approaching his 40th birthday, he is one of the most experienced players on duty in Lagos but none can match the evergreen Segun Toriola, in September he will celebrate his 45th birthday. Winner of the Africa Cup title in 2008 in Brazzaville, he has made four Men’s World Cup ventures; his first in 1996 in Nîmes, the latest in 2008 in Liège.
Both Ahmed Ali Saleh and Segun Toriola are major challengers to the aspirations of Quadri Aruna, who is aiming for his sixth Men’s World Cup appearance but, despite a recent run of indifferent form on the ITTF World Tour and at ITTF Challenge Series tournaments, is Omar Assar not the greatest threat to the hopes of Quadri Aruna?
Omar Assar is in search of his third Africa Cup title and his third Men’s World Cup appearance. Notably, in the most recent five editions of the tournament, the two have always met; moreover except for 2015 in Yaoundé, all have been in finals. In Yaoundé Omar Assar prevailed in the semi-final round, progressing to secure the title; last year he repeated the success, winning in Nairobi. Quadri Aruna succeeded in 2014 in Lagos, 2016 in Khartoum and 2017 in Agadir.
Now on home soil, a great deal is expected of Quadri Aruna, can he regain the title; will there be an extra degree of pressure?
“I don’t think I will be under any pressure playing in Lagos particularly with the support from the fans. I am ready to compete against anybody because I will always want to make my country proud. There is no doubt that it is going to be tough because everybody is playing well now.” Quadri Aruna
The contest between the leading African players of the present day is eagerly anticipated; but remember April and the Liebherr 2019 World Championships, we all looked forward to seeing the Chinese stars meet in the guise of Ma Long and Fan Zhendong.
It didn’t happen, could someone have other ideas in Lagos?