LAGOS – President of the African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF) Khaled El Salhy believes the recently concluded 2019 ITTF Africa Cup has shown that a new crop of players are emerging to threaten the old guard and has set a minimum of a quarterfinal place for Africa’s representatives at the 2019 ITTF Table Tennis World Cup which will serve off in October in Chengdu, China.
Familiar Egyptians Omar Assar and Dina Meshref triumphed in the men’s and women’s singles respectively on Monday but notwithstanding that Assar’s title was his third while Meshref won a sixth consecutive title and seventh in total, Salhy said events such as Senegal’s Ibrahima Diaw pushing top seed Aruna Quadri to the very edge in Sunday’s quarterfinal show that the established players from Nigeria and Egypt will struggle to retain their dominance as newer players begin to exert themselves in the very near future.
“Nigeria and Egypt for a long time have been taking care of the leadership of sports in Africa, but I see now that we are changing,” Salhy said after Monday’s final inside the Molade Okoya-Thomas Indoor Sports Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium.
“I saw here a new face from Senegal, Ibrahima Diaw who is a top player, yesterday he was playing in the quarterfinal, nobody knows who will win him or Aruna Quadri, it was a very good match.
“I believe in the coming African events he will be a big threat to the big players from Nigeria and Egypt. I am also so happy with the standard of Algerian players especially Sami [Kherouf] who is now in the top four of this event for the first time. Congo-Brazzaville also, they have a good standard I believe we are coming very soon for the African Games this month in Morocco, it will be a tough competition for all players especially as it is the qualification for Tokyo Olympic games in 2020.”
By virtue of their triumphs in the men’s and women’s singles, Assar and Meshref qualify to represent Africa at the 2019 Table Tennis World Cup but with Salhy expressed confidence that the duo could be joined by other well placed African players who stand a chance of qualifying via the world rankings.
And while he harbours hope of more players joining the already qualified duo, the Egyptian said notwithstanding Africa’s terrible showing at the tournament in past editions, the ATTF expects a quarterfinal showing at the World Cup from Africa’s representative “if possible” but that a semifinal or final appearance would also be welcome and assured that the continental body will work to ensure adequate preparation for Africa’s representatives.
“I believe Africa will have more than one player at the World Cup,” the Egyptian declared. “The winners have already secured their position but due to the high ranking of some other players, I believe some more will get through wild cards.
“To speak frankly, our expectation is that normally we reach the quarterfinal if possible. We hope one of the qualified players to go more forward to other levels such as the semifinal or final, but at least we are expecting our players to not be less than the quarterfinal, and we wish for them to be well prepared and we will follow up to ensure some of them will get more.
Salhy also had some words of encouragement for players who failed to make the podium at the just concluded 2019 ITTF Africa Cup. The administrator enjoined them to take great encouragement from their performances in what he said was a “tough” competition and advised them to maintain the level shown at the tournament which he said will see them bag honours in no distant time.
“I believe that all the players should be proud of participation here, the competition was tough, all the players were very good, I say congratulations for the winners and for the others, we have to tell them that you keep up the same level, you will reach a good possibility on the podium in the coming events if you continue with big efforts in the coming events,” Salhy said.