18 Dec 2019

A long tradition of continental success and beyond but from Thursday 19th to Saturday 21st December; there will be a first, Nigeria will host its inaugural international para tournament.

Overall a prize fund of US$30,000, the Valuejet Para Open will be staged in the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.

by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer

Promoted by Ishaku Tikon, the President of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), it is a ground breaking event, a new chapter in the country’s sporting history is opened.

“This is a good development for table tennis in Nigeria and we are grateful to our sponsor, Valuejet for deeming it fit to support the championship. We are excited; we cannot wait for the tournament to kick off. Our aim is to make it a ranking event by 2020 on the ITTF calendar. This is another first from NTTF and we hope our players and visitors will enjoy the warmth of Lagos and Nigeria during the competition.” Ishaku Tikon

Plenty of enthusiasm for the venture (Photo: courtesy of Olalekan Okusan)

Ishaku Tikon is supported by Elderson Bankole, Chair of Para Table Tennis and Sunday Odebode, the Project Consultant alongside Olabanji Oladapo, Secretary General of Nigeria Olympic Committee and Deputy President of the African Table Tennis Federation.

“We want to use this competition to develop para table tennis in Nigeria, whilst also promoting the talents of the players. We believe this tournament will enhance the sport as well as give us leverage to stage and be listed among the ITTF tournaments in near future. Our players will also be exposed to competition among themselves and other players coming to Nigeria for the championship.” Sunday Odebode

A major initiative one made possible thanks to the support from Temitope Ajibola, Valuejet Head of Business and Programmes for their support.

“We will not stop supporting these special people; for us at Valuejet we want to make this tournament a permanent feature in the NTTF calendar and we hope it will be included in the ITTF calendar in near future.” Temitope Ajibola

Faith Obazuaye, the 2019 African Para Championships, gold medallist, addressed the press conference (Photo: courtesy of Olalekan Okusan)

Notably prior to play the commencement of play, El-Sayed Mehrem visited Lagos in order to complete classifications.

“I am impressed with what I have seen so far in Nigeria particularly the hospitality of the people. I believe Nigeria has the potential to rule the world in para table tennis considering its rising profile in Africa. I must congratulate Nigeria and the organisers for making this a reality because I have been impressed with the organisation so far. I hope this tournament has come to stay. We hope and believe it can make it to the calendar of ITTF in years to come.” El-Sayed Mehrem

El-Sayed Mehrem explains the classification process (Photo: courtesy of Olalekan Okusan)
Competing nations

Undoubtedly a watershed, in addition to Nigeria, players from Algeria, Benin, Ghana, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Morocco, South Africa and Togo will compete.

“This is the first time we will be having this kind of competition in Nigeria and also an ITTF-certified classifier came from Egypt to help classify our players in their respective classes. There is no doubt that we have talents in para table tennis but these players must know their classes so that they can be included in the ITTF data base for major competitions. I am excited and hoping that we can again show the world that we can stage a befitting para table tennis tournament of international standard.” Elderson Bankole

Present at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Egypt’s Ibrahim Hamadtou and Mohamed Sameh Eid Saleh alongside Nigeria’s Ahmed Owolabi Koleosho are expected to compete. Notably Mohamed Sameh Eid Saleh has qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

All smiles from Ahmed Owolabi Koleosho (Photo: courtesy of Olalekan Okusan)
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