The 2019 Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) national junior league serves off on Friday, July 12, at the National Stadium in Lagos.
Already, 63 boys and 32 girls drawn across the country have registered for the nine-day tournament which serves a ranking event for U-18 players in the country.
The tournament is being bankrolled by WEO AllSports with technical support from NTTF and the players are expected to compete for points from the preliminaries, which will end on July 19 where the finalists will battle for cash prize and honours in the grand finale scheduled for July 21 at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.
According to the referee of the tournament, John Peters, the enthusiasm showed by the players would make the tournament competitive as some of the players are eager to displace the already established stars in their bid to represent Nigeria in major international tournaments.
“We are so excited that we are now having quite a number of junior players coming up and this is a sign that we will have quality replacement for some of our ageing players. I am so happy that this year’s tournament will be more competitive because looking at what Taiwo Mati, who is a junior player that won the national trial for the All Africa Games, there will be chance for more players to come through,” Peters said.
Peters, who is Nigeria’s longest serving umpire having officiated at the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and All Africa Games charged the players to be of good conduct during the tournament, while there are plans to reward good conduct.
Aside from the total prize money of N1m, outstanding players will also be compensated by the organizers.
Already, most of the registered participants have arrived Lagos on Thursday, July 11, in readiness for the kick off with all eyes on the gong.
Among the top junior players expected to be the cynosure of all eyes are Oyo State-born duo of Usman Okanlawon and Sadiat Akeem, who are the current West African cadet champions.
To ensure that some of the players that featured at the last African Junior Championship in Ghana give room for upcoming players, the organizers have decided to include the Youth Tournament (U-21) in the grand finale with the likes of Taiwo Mati, Azeez Solanke, Jamiu Ayanwale, Abayomi Animashaun, Augustine Emmanuel as well as Tosin Oribamise competing in the one-day finale on July 21.