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The battle among players for the N4.5m prize money for the 2021 Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) National Championships begin on Tuesday, May 18 at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.

At the press briefing to herald the commencement of the tournament, the Tournament Director, Adesoji Tayo said the aim of the tournament was to continue the momentum which started from the 20th National Sports Festival to the concluded 14th Aso Cup held in Abuja.

He said that over three players will compete in the five-day championships which will end on Saturday, May 22. 

“We are aware of the quality of play in Edo and Abuja and for us, we want to continue to raise the bar by staging the national tournament so that our players can showcase their talents for the national handlers to identify them. I promise you it is going to be explosive as players will compete in 12 events in cadet, U-21, senior, and veterans. The icing on the cake is the total purse for the champion which for us will motivate the players to want to go for the top prize. Also, we are going to ensure that COVID-19 protocol is adhered to throughout the tournament,” he said.

Tayo, who is the former Technical Director of NTTF however, charged the players to conduct themselves with the best players emerging as champions as the federation is poised to unearth more Quadri Arunas in near future.

According to the Chairman, NTTF Caretaker Committee, Ishaku Tikon, the tournament is one of the events being organised by the federation to engage the players with the aim to unearth talents for the country.

“For the next five days from tomorrow May 18 to Saturday May 22, we are going to be witnessing explosive contests among the players and we believe we can identify more Quadri Aruna, Olufunke Oshonaike, Segun Toriola among others in the tournament. This competition is another avenue for our national handlers to identify some talents that will form the bulk of our national teams at junior and senior levels and we hope we can use it again to gauge the players in terms of their ranking,” he said.

The Secretary General of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), Olabanji Oladapo lauded NTTF and Lagos for deeming it fit to stage the tournament to keep the players busy, while urging the players to give their best in order to be called up to the national camp.

We are ready to host, Lagos state Govt

The Director-General, Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC), Gafar Bolowotan also reaffirmed the state commitment to sports development with huge support from Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

“We are happy to partner with the NTTF in staging this commitment and this is also in line with our ideal of sports development which is one of the objectives of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in terms of youth development. We are also happy to host the tournament and we hope our visitors from other states will enjoy the warm hospitality of Lagos throughout their stay,” Bolowotan said.

We are ready to Display high level Performance, players reveals

The players has claimed that they are ready to display high level of performance as the national  championship  serves on Tuesday, some of the players told NAIRA SPORTS that they are in Lagos to push for the best

 World U21 Number 60, Taiwo Mati “People should be expecting good performance from me as usual  and I hope to surprise them more with professional games”

For world cadet Number one, Musa Mustapha said, “I  will never give up that I will continue to push for the best which will make everyone enjoy the beauty of the ping pong”

The winner of U13 and U15 of the just concluded 14th Aso Cup in Abuja, Mattew Kuti said that its going to be an easy task playing in Lagos.

“It promises to be exciting, particularly playing in Lagos in front of my fans. I must also admit that it is not going to be an easy task for me because I know most of the players are on the lookout for me after my performance in Abuja. I am always ready because I am not only playing to win but I am hoping to get a national call-up with my performance,” the Ikorodu-based player said

“I’m here to win because I have been hoping high to be among national champion and this competition will helped me, I know all these players very well, we have been player against each for some times now” Ayoola Kabirat noted with confidence

The winner of the women’s singles event of the just-concluded Aso Championship, Fatimo Bello, has vowed to continue her dominance at national level.

“I’m in Lagos to give my best because there are no pushovers in the game anymore. Everybody wants to become the champion, but it is a bit tougher to remain on top,”  Bello, who claimed the singles title in Abuja and the 2020 National Sports Festival in Benin City, said.

Quadri Aruna kits table tennis players

In continuation of his philanthropic gesture, Nigeria international Quadri Aruna on Monday confirmed kits sponsorship of six table tennis players for the next year.

In an audio message by Aruna, the Oyo State-born athlete said the gesture was borne out of his desire to groom more top players like himself.

“I am using this opportunity to thank the table tennis family for their support in this trying time and to urge us to stay safe as we continue to fight this pandemic globally. In my usual way of giving back to the society as well as supporting new talents in Nigeria and I will be supporting some players at the 2021 NTTF National Championships and I wish all the players best of luck and let the tournament begin,” the Portugal-based star said.

Speaking during the presentation in Lagos on Monday, the Chairman of ITTF Nomination Committee, Wahid Enitan Oshodi, said Aruna has become a shining light in table tennis with his gesture toward young players in the country, while urging other top players to take a cue from him.

Oshodi also announced the four new players who distinguished themselves during the National Championship would also benefit from Aruna’s gesture during the grand finale on Saturday, May 22.

World number one in U-13 Musa Mustapha and his sibling, Mustapha Mustapha from Borno State as well as Kabirat Ayoola of Oyo State and Aishat Rabiu were the four cadet players that will be kitted by Aruna for one year. The duo of Taiwo Mati and Azeez Solanke got renewal for their kits sponsorship for another year.

A delighted Mati commended Aruna for the support while promising to continue to work harder to emulate the African champion.

Other players that have benefited from Aruna’s kits sponsorship include Sukurat Aiyelabegan (Kwara), Muiz Olanrewaju (Oyo), Nurudeen Hassan (Lagos), Olajide Omotayo (Lagos), Fatimo Bello (Lagos), Abdulahi Afolabi (Lagos), Taiwo Balogun (Lagos), Ademola Abiola (Oyo) and Tobi Falana (Kwara).

Also Paralympics debutants – Isau Ogunkunle (Ogun) and Faith Obazuaye (Delta) have benefited as well.

Each of the player is expected to get two pairs of rubbers, blade, t-shirts, shorts, tracksuit, shoe, socks, towel, bat case, backpack and cap.

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