‘Why table tennis has unique place in Lagos calendar’
• State pledges readiness to host more events
Lagos State has been described as Africa’s table tennis capital. The state, which yearly hosts the continent’s best players in different competitions, has become a destination for stakeholders in the sport, some of who see playing inside the famous Molade Okoya Thomas Hall of the Teslim Stadium as reaching the holy grail.
As it has done in the past eight years, Lagos is once again hosting Africa’s elite table tennis players, who are fighting on three fronts.
Yesterday, Lagos State Deputy Governor, Femi Hamzat, assured the ITTF that the state is ready to host future World Championships following the successful hosting of several ITTF-sanctioned tournaments in the last eight years.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by the ITTF team to his office in Lagos, the deputy governor said the state would continue to support table tennis while assuring that they will be willing to host the world based on the experience of hosting several tournaments in the past.
“We are happy that our efforts have started yielding positive results with Quadri Aruna now ranked among the top 10 players in the world. In the past, the Chinese used to dominate the top of the world. We will continue to support table tennis and we want all our visitors to enjoy the atmosphere in Lagos,” Hamzat said.
The ITTF team, led by one of its vice presidents, Wahid Enitan Oshodi, said the visit became necessary following the huge support ITTF has gotten from the state in the last eight years.
“We are here on a Thank-You visit because Lagos has been a major supporter of table tennis in Africa, and we are happy that the support has started yielding fruit now that Aruna is now ranked among the top 10 players in the world. We hope that more players will come through like Aruna. Lagos has been the backbone of table tennis in Africa, and we hope that this support will be sustained by the state,” Oshodi said
Earlier at the weekend, ITTF Africa president, Khaled El-Salhy, acknowledged Lagos’ importance to the development of the African game, saying the country’s commercial never centre is the hub of table tennis in the continent.
Pointing at the successful staging of several ITTF-sanctioned events in the state, the Egyptians said such competitions, such as the ongoing African Club Championships are examples of the government’s commitment to the sport in the last seven years, which has helped to produce world-beaters.
“I must commend the government of Lagos State for what they have done for table tennis because the city has become the hub of table tennis.
“All players within and outside Africa are always looking forward to competing at the Molade Okoya Thomas Hall, especially with the huge spectators that most times support the players regardless of their teams. ITTF has now seen Lagos as one of the cities that they cannot ignore when it comes to staging top-class competition and for us in Africa, we are always confident that the state has the capacity to host major international tournaments,” El-Salhy said.
The man behind Lagos’ recent success stories in the sport, Wahid Enitan Oshodi, who is also the chairman of the Main Organising Committee (MOC), said staging the top-class tournament would not have been possible without the huge support from the Lagos State government as well as sponsors.
“We cannot get to where we are at the world level without the support of the Lagos State Government because what we have achieved became reality based on their backing. Also, our sponsors play a huge role in where we are today and we hope we can continue to rely on their support,” Oshodi said.
16 clubs, made up of nine men and seven women, are competing in the Club Championships from yesterday to today, while 48 players (28 men and 20 women) will compete for the continental slots at the Africa Cup from tomorrow to May 28 at the famous Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.