Lack of exposure to competitions globally coupled with inadequate facilities are some of the reasons that prevented African teams from doing well in the team event of the 2016 ITTF World Junior Championships holding in Cape Town, South Africa.
From Egypt’s Mariam Alhodaby to Africa’s most decorated player, Segun Toriola, the lamentations continue.
The 16-year-old Mariam Alhodaby said: “I think it has always been very difficult for African teams to play against some of these top teams because unlike African players, players from Europe and Asia feature in more competitions and they practice regularly. Taking part in competitions regularly is very important for players as this will help in their improvement and for us in Africa, this is lacking and we hope one-on-one in the singles, we hope we can spring surprises.”
Toriola, who led the Nigerian coaching crew to the tournament told ITTF that , most African players still lack the basics of the game. “I can tell you categorically that African players are also skilful like their European and Asian counterparts but the only different is the exposure. How many competitions do we have for our players in Africa? Even outside the continent, how many do they attend? These are some of the factors that will continue to affect our players. In some instances some of them don’t even have the required facilities to train well. So we must address this to be able to give our players the opportunity to rub shoulders with the world’s best,”
Also, Coach Helmy Ashraf, who led the Egyptian coaching crew said the less attention given to table tennis in Africa has discouraged a lot of athletes from taking to the sport.
“In Africa, we focus more on football, cricket, rugby and others to the detriment of table tennis. Even some parents discourage their wards from taking to the sport because they believe it is not commercial viable like football. But in other parts of the world, there are lot of encouragements for the players. They attend more competitions and train regularly. Unlike in Africa, where we believe our children must study more than taking part in sports while the media is not also helping the matter as they never give more attention to table tennis. It is only recently that we see some media focusing on table tennis based on the performance of players like Aruna Quadri and Omar Assar at global level,” Helmy said.
However, Toriola and Helmy commended the South African Table Tennis Board (SATTB) for putting the continent on the world map with the staging of the tournament which has continued to receive accolades from participants.