Former president of Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) Enitan Oshodi says Nigeria “can do very well” in the table tennis event at the 2019 African Games currently ongoing in Rabat, Morocco but he believes that the country’s male table tennis players will outperform their female counterparts at the Games.
Team Nigeria will be represented by ten players in the tennis event – five men and five women.
Africa’s top-ranked player Quadri Aruna leads the men’s team which also has veteran and four-time African Games singles champion Segun Toriola, Jide Omotayo, Bode Abiodun and fast-rising teenage sensation Mati Taiwo. The women’s team includes 2007 African Games singles champion Olufunke Oshonaike, 2011 African Games singles champion Edem Effiong, 2011 African Games women’s doubles gold medallist Cecilia Akpan, national champion Ajoke Ojomu and Fatimo Bello.
But with perennial rivals, Egypt winners in the men and women’s singles as well as the women’s team events in 2015 bound to put up stiff competitions in all seven categories to be competed for, Oshodi who is also Vice President of the International Table Tennis Federation AFRICA (Western Region), believes Nigeria’s women players might struggle in the team event which also serves as qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
He, however, expects the men who are defending champions in the men’s team event to give a good account of themselves.
“Honestly, I think we can do very well, It’s seven medals [but] it’s hard to predict with table tennis. In the team event, I expect the men to do better than the women. I can safely say that,” Oshodi told busybuddiesng.com of his expectations of Nigeria’s table tennis representatives in Morocco.
Notwithstanding his prediction of a tough outing for the women, the chairman of the Local Organising Committee of the recently concluded 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Lagos Open says he expects the experience of former champions Oshonaike and Effiong to come to the fore and says African Games debutant Bello must make the most of her opportunity to excel on a big stage in order to justify her selection.
He also said a return of three gold medals out of the seven on offer would be a good outing for the country.
“But the women are fighting hard now so it’s going to be a tough fight there you have the experience of Funke [Oshonaike] and Offiong Edem – these are talented gifted players.
“Now, we need the younger players to step up now. Fatimo Bello – it’s going to be her first big outing [at] the [African Games], she has to show why she’s been selected you know the truth is if you don’t perform you are out of the national team now because there are so many players coming through.
“So, we are hopeful. I think two [or] three medals will be good for us,” he said.
The draws for the table tennis events will be held today while competition serves off on Tuesday, August 20 with the team events taking the lead.