Extra funding, dedication will make Nigerian players excel, says Oshodi
President of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), Wahid Oshodi, has said that the nation’s table tennis players have the capacity to excel globally if extra funding were added to the top-level commitment they put into their careers.
Presenting the NTTF scorecard in the last one year, Oshodi said the year 2016 has been a memorable one, particularly the exploits of the nation’s table tennis team at the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.
According to him, more grassroots competitions, workshops and coaching clinics would be organised next year to enable the federation discover more players around the country.
“These plans will give our coaches the opportunity to further develop their knowledge so that they can better harness the skills of our young players and finding the resources to expose our best players to life on the professional tour at both junior and senior levels, funding is key to all these. We started the year with five of our players taking part in the Hungary Open, the first pro-tour of the event of the year. It is difficult financially but we continue to try our best,” Oshodi said.
The former Lagos State Commissioner for Sports said as part of the federation’s plan for next year, honours would be bestowed on athletes such as Atanda Musa, Yomi Bankole and Olawunmi Majekodunmi, among others, who at one point in time made the nation proud in table tennis.
“This is where the Ministry of Sports should take the lead. There are great athletes, who have served this country meritoriously and deserve honours. We in the Federation will continue to play our part by honouring them through naming awards after them. This we will do to inspire the young players and assure them that their contributions will always be remembered,” he said.
On the federation’s challenges and gains, Oshodi said the game’s profile has been raised to the extent that the nation now boasts world-class athletes.
“I don’t want to start listing the gains but my joy and happiness comes from the fact that we have been able to raise the profile of the sport and that we can boast of world class players. We intend to do more but this also depends on the availability of funds. Funding is a major challenge because apart from organising tournaments at local level, these players must also be exposed internationally and that is why the fund is very vital,” he said.
He attributed Aruna Quadri’s rising profile and the exploits of Segun Toriola, Funke Oshonaike and others, to hardwork and dedication, adding that Quadri has justified all the investment in him with his dedication to the sport, which, he said, has made it possible for him to get to where he is today.
“We have a lot of players with the quality of Quadri in the country and they just need to instill more hard work and dedication in their game. They should take a cue from the likes of Quadri, Segun Toriola and Funke Oshonaike, who I believe have become great examples to others with their commitment to the sport.
“We just need to continue to work hard and expose our players to the latest techniques at a much younger age. We need to find the funding to take the players on the junior and senior pro tours where they can test themselves against the best in the world.”
On the junior cadre’s performance at this year’s World Junior Championships, Oshodi said: “Overall it was a relatively good performance in the circumstances. It was the first international tournament for many of the players, who were nervous and the unavailability of the team’s captain at the tournament made it difficult, especially for the girls’ team. But it was quite a useful test and the experience gained will help in fast-tracking the growth of these young lads.”
On the challenge from the European and Asian teams, Oshodi said: “We need to find the funding to give the players the opportunity for better coaching. They need to attend tournaments. We need more sponsors to come on board and assist in setting up more tournaments where we can get these children to showcase their talents. We must continue to appeal to the private sector and individuals to help us to tackle the challenge in sports.
We all know the economic situation in the country, but sports play such a critical role in developing the youth, creation of job and tourism opportunities, we must not relent in finding ways to find the needed funds.”