By James Agberebi:
Ghana table tennis star Derek Abrefa says Nigeria hosting of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Challenge has given more African players the chance to make it to the world ranking as well as improve their global rating.
This year's third ITTF Challenge comes up on August 9 to 13 inside the Indoor Sports Hall, Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos.
According to ITTF-Africa, Abrefa, who was voted the 2016 Ghana’s Table Tennis Star of the Year, stated that hosting of the tournament is fast making Nigeria the hub of table tennis in Africa.
“I must say Nigeria is becoming the home of table tennis in Africa. But I must also say Ghana is also on the verge of becoming one of the top African countries that will first be mentioned when we talk of table tennis," he said.
"The Nigeria Open gives Africans the opportunity to meet world top table tennis players as well as give and expose African table tennis players on what the game is all about.
"Since most African countries are developing countries, most sports athletes don't get the opportunity to be exposed outside the continental level to meet higher and experienced players due to inadequate support from the government. And since Nigeria Open is a recognised ITTF tournament, it enables others who are battling with sponsorship issue to be able to participate and secure a good ranking in the world.”
On the chances of Ghana and other African players doing well and also his expectations at this year's edition, Abrefa said: “Ghanaians have prepared for this competition and I must say our efforts will pay us off well. Our target is to come and return back to Ghana with a medal. We stand a chance of winning a medal."
“My expectation for this tournament is to be able to move a step ahead of where I was in my last participation. I have prepared so well for this competition and all I hope and pray is that draw favours me also because in every competition, one needs to get a good place in the draw. I am expecting myself to put up a better performance.
“I am expecting Africans to fight for the ultimate prize since Europeans always defend every trophy that falls within their continent. We can make it and we must make sure we keep the trophy in Africa.”