Africa’s big nations, Egypt and Nigeria, in table tennis will square up in Mauritius in a bid to win ITTF World Team Cup places when this year’s ITTF African Championships takes centre stage from September 3 to 9.
The ITTF African Championships will serve as qualification for next year’s World Team Cup scheduled to hold in Tokyo, Japan.
However only two teams will earn that right to represent Africa at the table tennis World Cup.
Record entry for this year
This year’s African showpiece has a record number of entry as 22 teams have confirmed participation, according to the African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF).
Apart from the powerhouses Egypt and Nigeria as well as host nation, there will be teams from Algeria, Gabon, Angola, Burkina Faso, Congo, Cameroon, Somalia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Madagascar, Togo, Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Djibouti, Comoros, Libya, Eritrea and DR Congo.
“Yes I am so happy in following up the expected good number of entries in spite of the received information from national associations, hoping that all could do it and come with us to Mauritius soon,” ATTF president Khaled El-Salhy said on the federation’s website.
Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri tipped to shine
Nonetheless among the record entry, Nigeria’s top player Aruna Quadri has been singled as favourites for the men’s singles title. Egypt’s Omar Assar regarded as one of the continent’s finest ping pong player beside Quadri will be absent and Algerian star Sami Kherouf feels this could play things in the way of Quadri.
Kherouf pointed to the fact that Quadri comes on the back of claiming the men’s singles crown at this year’s ITTF Challenge Seamaster Nigeria Open.
“I think Quadri Aruna has the chance to win the men’s singles especially in the absence of his closest rival – Omar Assar. Aruna is consistent and he is a very good player,” Kherouf said.
Can Egypt thrive without Omar Assar?
The big question on everyone’s lips is: ‘Can Egypt thrive without Assar in Mauritius?’ Mohammed El-Beiali who is the Arab Championships men’s singles title-holder, knows it will be a difficult outing for his country without the talismanic Assar, now banned for a year by the Egypt table tennis federation for what it termed tarnishing the north African nation’s image during the Mediterranean games for failing to control his temper in a game.
But El-Beiali holds a glimmer of hope that Egypt could flourish at the Beau Bassin Sports Complex in Mauritius next month without their top man.
“For sure without Omar Assar against Nigeria will be a difficult match for us but we will try our best. There is no doubt that we will miss the efforts of Omar Assar but we are really preparing for the championship as we are now in camp training twice daily in Cairo. I think we can do something in Mauritius but I must admit that it is not going to be easy at all,” El-Beiali admitted.
Surely it could be a straight battle between Nigeria and Egypt but with a tinge of possible upsets from the outsiders.
© The Predictor NG