The quest for Africa to play in the championship division in 2018 started on a bright note when Nigeria and Egypt recorded victories in their first round matches at the ongoing ITTF World Team Championship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
It was Nigeria who paved the way for Egypt when earlier in the day, they rattled Turkey with an emphatic 3-0 win with veteran Segun Toriola joining forces with Quadri Aruna and Bode Abiodun.
Later in the day, Egypt showed their class against Mexico when Omar Assar, Mohammed El-Beiali and El-Sayed Lashin beat their Mexican counterparts 3-0.
The Egyptian ladies made it a double header for the North Africans as they also pummeled Switzerland 3-0 to put their ambition of gaining promotion to the elite division on track.
Speaking after the victory against Turkey, Bode Abiodun of Nigeria said: “I was a bit nervous when I started the game having flown for hours from Portugal. But as the game progressed I got my rhythm to win convincingly against the Turkish. We are a strong side and I believe in my teammates that we can gain promotion to the Championship division. We are not bothered about the pedigree of our opponents and we are not going to play to the gallery against any team because every team in the group are very strong.”
Also El-Sayed Lashin told ITTF website that “It was good winning our first group game convincingly because we had expected Marcos Madrid to give us a tough fight but I was elated when Mohammed El-Beiali was able to beat him. Also our top player – Omar Assar started well and we hope to take each game as they come. Our target is to top the group to be able to fulfil our dream of playing in the Championship Division in 2018. This is our dream and target in this competition and we are going to approach every game having in mind our main target, which is to qualify to the Championship division.”
Nigeria will face their biggest foe in the group – India on Monday, which is a repeat of the bronze medal tie of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, a match the captain of the Indian side, Sharath Achanta has tagged ‘crucial’.
Meanwhile, Nigerian women team risk demotion after the team failed to make it to the tournament in Kuala Lumpur over the inability of the National Sports Commission (NSC) to fund the trip to Malaysia while their men’s team had to sponsor themselves to be part of the championship.