By Esther Egbe
Former President, Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), Wahid Oshodi was the brain behind the annual ITTF Challenge Nigeria Open which started as a pilot in 2013.
Oshodi midwifed what is now regarded as Africa’s elite table tennis tournament which continues to attract top players across the world and as the chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), the chairman of the ITTF Nomination Committee believes the tournament has lifted the fortune of the sport in the continent.
“We continue to plan ahead. We have reviewed the last two years and now we look out for areas where we can improve the event. We start planning early on how to make it a better tournament.
“Quite a few members of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) and Lagos State Government attend or watch online the best international events and we try to learn from what the organisers there are doing.
“We also pick up tips from other major sports events. We do not rest on our past successes. It is for this reason that the Nigeria Open continues to be the best international sports event in Nigeria. This year we are quite sure that we will have a larger number of top players and that makes for a more competitive tournament.
“The excitement that surrounds the event continues to attract the top players. The atmosphere created by the fans is different from any other event in the table tennis world. Drumming, clapping, singing and supporting the players non-stop encouraged these players to put in excellent performance.
“Word of mouth in the table tennis world is that Lagos is the place to be. Our event and all the accompanying razzmatazz is the face of modern table tennis. The Nigeria Open does sports and entertainment in the right balance. Our international and local partners are indeed true partners in all sense of the word. Without them we could not put this event on.”
The erstwhile Lagos State Commissioner for Youth and Sports expressed appreciation to the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode for the enourmous support the tournament has been getting from the state in the last six years.
“A lot of thanks must go to our sponsors across different categories. Most importantly the NTTF continues to receive the support of the Lagos State Government and for this we say a big thank you to His Excellency, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the Governor of Lagos State and his sports team in particular.
“The infrastructure support is crucial to the hosting of the event and the human resources, which they devote to the event makes our work easier. The support of Chief Kessington Adebutu – Chairman Baba Ijebu Sports Bet has seen this event grow to a super world class event. A host of private sector partners have fully adopted this event as their own and it continues to enhance the narrative of Lagos as a major sports tourism destination in Africa.
“Lagos State holds a starring role as usual. The support of the state in terms of the infrastructure, transportation, hospitality and human resources they put at our disposal is massive. Their staff who work on this project with the NTTF continue to acquire the knowledge that is so important for hosting top class events.
“Lagos has over the years continued to develop its capacity in this regard and it is well on its way to fulfilling the vision of the government to be a major player as one of the world’s top sports tourism destinations. It is this that the ITTF has recognized and led to them appointing Dr. Kweku Tandoh (Executive Chairman), Lagos State Sports Commission as the Tournament Director for this event. He brings with him over 30 years experience in sports administration and this can only help enhance the tournament.”
Expectations for 2018 edition, Oshodi added: “More top quality performances. Greater attention to details in meeting ITTF standards. This year we expect the largest number of top 100 players across both male and female categories. The enquiries we have been receiving even before the tournament prospectus was released tells us to expect a bumper event.
“We shall also be kicking off the event this year by also hosting the National Junior League and the ITTF Africa (Western Region) Singles Championships to usher in the Nigeria Open. So we whet the fans appetites with the best of junior table tennis and this also helps to prepare our young players for the U-21 event of the Nigeria Open. It will be three exciting weeks of table tennis.