It is an exciting time for table tennis in Africa, as the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals 2023 is just days away from kicking off in Durban, South Africa. Africa’s top players are gearing up to showcase their skills on the biggest stage of all, and the continent is buzzing with anticipation. It’s been 84 years since the World Championships Finals were held in Africa, making this event a historic milestone for the sport.
The recently concluded ITTF Africa Cup gave fans a glimpse of what they can expect from the stars of the continent at the World Championships. The final day of the event saw some thrilling performances from Africa’s top players with Dina Meshref and Hana Goda coming up against each other in the women’s singles while Omar Assar and Quadri Aruna battled each other for the men’s singles title. These players have been making their continent proud in various World Table Tennis events, and they are raring to perform in front of their African fans.
After a successful ITTF Africa Cup where he took home the men’s singles title, Omar Assar from Egypt, expressed his excitement about the World Championships returning to Africa. “This is a great thing for Africa. It’s an opportunity to showcase to the world what Africa has to offer, from our hospitality to our culture and, of course, our top-level table tennis action,” he said.
Egyptian Dina Meshref is no stranger to the sport, coming from a family of table tennis players, with both her parents being national champions and her great aunt, Ines El-Darwish, being the first-ever African Championships Women’s singles winner. Following in their footsteps, Dina Meshref won her first African Cup title in 2011 before claiming consecutive titles between 2014 and 2020. She is thrilled to welcome the world to Africa for this flagship event but more importantly, she is determined to inspire younger Africans and help grow the sport in the continent.
For the Nigerian Quadri Aruna, who has tirelessly been putting the sport on the map in his home continent, it is an honour to represent Nigeria and Africa in every table tennis event, let alone the World Championships. Today, he is the highest-ranked African player, but for the world number 12, his journey to the top has been anything but smooth. Growing up in a low-income family, he developed a passion for table tennis at a young age when he stumbled upon a makeshift table in his neighbourhood, a passion that continues to burn bright. Today, this passion also goes beyond just playing the sport, he wants to inspire and help the next generation of players.
“It’s significant that the World Championships are being held here in Africa. It’s a platform to show Africans the thrill of the sport, to inspire young players, and to get more fans. This is a positive step forward towards having more people loving the sport and wanting to be part of it.”
Among the many young players in Africa who have been inspired by these stars of Africa is Hana Goda. As the youngest-ever African Champion at just 14 years old last year, Hana is already making her mark in the sport. After a nail-biting final with her idol, Hana retained her title this year. She first picked up the sport at the age of four and, 11 years later, is on the right path to more success. Her achievement at a young age is a testament to how the sport has grown in Africa, and like Dina, she is confident that this World Championships in Durban will play a huge role in growing the appeal of table tennis.
As the players get ready to compete in Durban, they are ready to make their mark and give African fans an event to remember. With the support of passionate fans, talented athletes, and the opportunity to showcase their skills on a global stage, the future of table tennis in Africa looks brighter than ever. The ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals 2023 is set to be a historic event, and Africa’s best are more than ready to take on the world.