Hundreds of junior players across the country will converge in Lagos from July 27 to August 4 for the annual Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) National Junior League which will herald Africa’s elite tournament – ITTF Challenge Nigeria Open.
For nine days preceding the kick-off of the 2018 Nigeria Open on August 8, the players will slug it out for places in the grand finale on August 4 at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium. Top 16 players in the boys and girls events will compete at the grand finale while the qualifying matches will hold at the National Training Centre, National Stadium from July 27 to August 2.
The tournament serves as a platform to unearth new players and assemble teams for major international competitions for the country.
According to NTTF President, Ishaku Tikon, the championship is expected to throw up talents that will replace the ageing players in the national teams.
“Primarily, the aim of the national junior league is to discover the young talent that are hidden before and preparing them to step into the shoes of older players like Aruna Quadri and the rest. It is very important to us and it is a platform we developed to take table tennis to a higher level. Through this league, we are going to discover a lot of players, have them identified and we now begin to work with them in synergy with great players like Quadri and rest of them that are already ageing.
“We are looking forward to see that Nigeria continues to be seen by the world as a table tennis hub in Africa. So this is our target to discover young talents that are hidden, bring them on board and develop them to face the challenge ahead. Table tennis on daily and yearly basis is moving in the world and we must be seen as moving together with the world,” the NTTF boss added.
For Tikon, the foundation laid by his predecessor – Wahid Oshodi has made it easier for the federation to continue. “I must give credit to the synergy between me when I was on the board with Barrister Wahid Oshodi as the president. We worked very closely and that makes it easy for me to step in and move forward from there. The Nigeria Table Tennis Federation has moved forward and that is glaring as we are among the performing federations in Nigeria. I key into the progress the previous board made and look at other areas to improve in order to take us to the next level and that is where we are now,” he said.