LAGOS – The rivalry between Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri and Omar Assar of Egypt, was the focal point at the just-concluded 2015 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour tagged “Lagos Open’’.
You may also like:
Nigerian ping pong fans who had banked on Quadri’s current form had expected that at their third meet in the 3rd edition of the Tour, he would live up to their billings by dethroning Assar.
But contrary to their hopes, Assar again clinched the title.
He carted home the plum prize money of 6,000 dollars.
He then left the other 85 players from 11 countries who took part in the competition held from March 10 to March 14 in Lagos to share what was left of the 46,000 dollars prize money.
The spectators who had earlier drummed up support for Quadri at the onset of the match were dismayed at the outcome of the match, which left them distraught.
It would be germane to note that the level of spectatorship at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Indoor Sports Hall, Teslim Balogun Stadium for the finals was unprecedented; it was usually in football matches that such large turnout of supporters is recorded.
The finals of the women’s singles of the Tour, was equally a spellbinding as Portugal’s Shao Jieni and Dina Meshref of Egypt, slugged it out in a keenly contested match which ended at four sets to three in favour of Jieni the Portuguese.
The two players dazzled the fans with great strokes and topspin which was applauded by the table tennis mad spectators who filled the hall.
Other events featured at the Tour are the men’s and women’ double, U-21 girls and boys event.
Meanwhile, some of the foreign players who participated in the tour commended the organisers and Nigerians for their hospitality and accommodation but had some reservations over the proximity of their abode and the venue of the competition.
Meshreef, who emerged as the first runners-up in the women’s singles, voiced her displeasure about the distance between the venue of the tournament and her hotel.
She urged the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) to address the issue in subsequent editions of the competition.
“Many a time, I would love to take a rest before my next match but when I imagine the traffic I will have to face I decide to stay back at the auditorium.
“I want the federation to work on getting us accommodation that would not be far from the event venue in subsequent editions.
“By so doing, we will have time to relax after a match before the next one,’’ she said.
Meanwhile, Mahmoud Fathy, an Egyptian, who participated in the U-21 boys’ event, said that it was his first time in Nigeria, adding that he was impressed with the facilities on ground.
“I’m happy to be here to see for myself what Nigerians look like though the weather is very hot.
“Now, I will be looking forward to this competition yearly to further explore Nigeria,’’ he said.
Russia’s Irina Ermakova, who said it was her second visit to Nigeria, told NAN that the Nigerian atmosphere was perfect, adding that she had thoroughly enjoyed her stay.
“The weather is good for my skin and I enjoyed the atmosphere.
Omoniyi said that he was amazed at the level of composure exhibited by young players against the more experienced players in the sport.
“Players as young as 12-year-old played against more experience players and they did not entertain any fear whatsoever; honestly am highly impressed,’’ he added.
In the same vein, Bello Nosiru, National Coach of NTTF said that the Tour had provided the federation the platform to identify quite an appreciable number of budding talents.
Nosiru added that the tour afforded the young players the opportunity to showcase their talents, saying that measures would be adopted by NTTF to groom the players to stardom.
“I was very surprised with the exploits of most of the young players we included in the competition; they gave a good account of themselves and I’m proud of them.
“Our next line of action is to ensure that we groom these players to stardom,’’ the coach said.
Some spectators that watched the action-packed tournament also praised the players for the level of skills they exhibited at the tour and the organisers for staging a world class show.
Kazeem Ibrahim, a businessman told NAN that a customer had informed him about the competition which prompted him to visit the venue.
Ibrahim described the performances of the participating players as outstanding and eye catching.
“I’m happy that I watched most of the matches, and I saw different players from Nigeria and other countries with great display on the table,’’ he said.
Adebayo Salau, a businessman, said that he was impressed with the ambience of the venue.
Salau urged the authorities in Lagos to maintain the facilities and to ensure that it was kept in good shape to enhance the growth of table tennis in the state and Nigeria.
“All the facilities inside this sport hall are of good standard and I hope Lagos state will continue to maintain them,’’ he stressed.
In all, there is no gain saying that Nigeria has talents. What should be the focus of the sports authorities should be how to grow the talents to be world beaters. (NAN)