Host – Nigeria will slug it out with Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, and six other nations at the Western Region qualifiers for the 2023 ITTF World Championships (WC) which kicks off on Thursday, May 19 at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.
Four events – team (men and women) and singles (men and women) – will be jostled for at the three-day tournament with Nigeria’s Rilwan Akanbi and Fatimo Bello defending their titles in the singles events while Nigeria will also be aiming to retain the team events titles.
Apart from Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Senegal, others teams participating in the tournament are Mali, Guinea, Niger Republic, Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, and Togo.
Already, all is set for the commencement of the championships as the participating teams will be targeting the few slots from the region on the final day on May 21.
Team Nigeria returned from their camp in Ogun State on Tuesday and they are expected to be led by Akanbi while other members of the team include Amadi Umeh, Azeez Solanke, and Taiwo Mati.
Bello will lead the women’s team alongside Tosin Oribamise, Ajoke Ojomu, and Bose Odusanya.
However, Cote d’Ivoire Oba Oba Kizito who lost his men’s singles title in 2021 after winning the maiden edition in 2019 arrived from his base in Paris, France believes he is ready to wrestle his title from anyone in Lagos.
“It is unfortunate that I lost my title in 2021 but now I am ready to reclaim my title back and hopefully I can lead my team to the title as well. There is no doubt that Nigeria will be difficult to beat but they are also beatable. I am so excited to always come to Lagos because this is where I enjoy table tennis with the huge support from the fans,” the 2019 Western Region champion said.
For the Secretary-General of the Western Region, Prof Germain Karou, the stage is set as the host has put everything in place to ensure a hitch-free event. “I am so excited that we are having this tournament again in Lagos being the home of table tennis in Africa. We want to enjoy the best of table tennis from the talents that are from the region and we hope more Quadri Aruna will emerge from the tournament. It promises to be exciting being the qualifiers for the 2023 World Championships in Durban, South Africa,” Karou said.
Egypt and Mauritius dominated the Northern and Eastern Region qualifiers held in Algeria and Ethiopia respectively.