by Ian Marshall, Editor (Interviews by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer)
In the opening match in the final of the men’s competition, currently based in Italy but in Lagos representing the Nigerian club, Soj, Olajide Omotayo accounted for Omar Assar (11-6, 9-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-5), a win that is most certainly a confidence booster for the ensuing ITTF Africa Cup.
“I had played against Omar Assar before in Morocco and I realised that we had the same style of play; so I was determined to give my best against him in the encounter. I think the win has boosted my confidence going into the Africa Cup. My target is to make it to the quarter-final because that is the stage the tournament will become tougher. I am ready to take down any of my opponents.” Olajide Omotayo
Success for Olajide Omotayo, who last September was a semi-finalist at the ITTF African Championships in Mauritius and in Lagos is the no.6 seed; but that was to be his team’s only success. Quadri Aruna steadied the ship by beating by Jide Ogidiolu (11-8, 11-6, 11-4) and Olajide Omotayo (11-2, 13-11, 8-11, 14-12); sandwiched in between Ahmed Ali Saleh overcame Azeez Jamiu (11-8, 11-3, 11-7).
Earlier, both teams had reached the final without surrendering a single individual match. First place in the initial stage group, at the semi-final stage with Ahmed Nadim selected in favour of Ahmed Ali Saleh, ENPPI beat Rwanda’s Vision Club trio of Aime Bushema, François Ishimwe and Elie Kayitare. Likewise, with no changes to the line-up, Soj accounted for colleagues Taiwo Mati, Azeez Solanke and Jamiu Ayanwale on duty for Remo Stars.
Problems for Omar Assar, there were also difficulties for colleague Dina Meshref, on duty in the women’s team event for Al Ahly. However, she survived. In the final against Nigeria’s Cannan Queen, she was extended the full five games by Offiong Edem (11-6, 12-14, 7-11, 11-5, 11-8), a win that set her team en route to a 3-0 success. Elizabeta Samara beat Cecilia Akpan (11-6, 11-7, 11-3), before Yousra Helmy overcame Ganiyat Aruna (11-8, 11-6, 11-4) to end matters.
Similar to the men’s team event, both outfits had topped their respective groups advancing to the final without blemish. In the penultimate round, with Marian Alhodaby preferred to Yousra Helmy, Al Ahly overcame Ethiopia’s Commercial Bank trio formed by Marti Gulti, Fiker Geday and Meron Mekuria; no changes to the selection, Cannan Queen had beaten G20 club compatriots Ajoke Ojomu, Fatimo Bello and Esther Oribamese.
Convincing performances, the most prominent African names underlining their high quality; a fact that was acknowledged by most significant dignitaries as they looked forward to the ITTF-Africa Cup. Ishaku Tikon, President of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation was in a buoyant mood as was Wahid Oshodi, Chair, Local Organising Committee in addition to Kweku Tandoh, Executive Chair, Lagos State Sports Commission and Khaled El-Salhy, President of the African Table Tennis Federation.
“We will continue to raise the bar as regards table tennis in the country and Africa.” Ishaku Tikon
“We’re hoping to give huge entertainment, I want people to come over to the stadium and enjoy the games,” Wahid Oshodi
“The benefit of hosting this event is to grow tourism in Lagos State, the aim of the state is to emerge as the hub for tourism, entertainment and sport in Africa, ultimately putting Lagos on the world map.” Kweku Tandoh
“We want to show that we have world class players in Africa, like Quadri Aruna and Omar Assar at the next ITTF World Cup. Lagos is like home of table tennis in Africa.” Khaled El-Salhy
Winners of the men’s singles and women’s singles events qualify for the respective World Cup tournaments to be held later this year in the Chinese city of Chengdu.
2019 Africa Club Championships: Roll of Honour and Full Results
2019 ITTF Africa Cup: Newsletter (Friday 2nd August)