Players hoping to share from the mouthwatering prize money for the annual Asoju Oba Molade Okoya-Thomas Table Tennis Cup are at present honing their skills across Lagos in readiness for the tournament.
The annual tournament remains the oldest competition in Nigeria having started in 1968 and has been staged uninterrupted for over 48 years with some of its products being former National Coach, Babatunde Obisanya who won the maiden edition in 1968 as well as the current African women champion, Olufunke Oshonaike.
Training centres dotted in Lagos have been besieged by the players who are eager to sharpen their skills under the guidance of their adopted coaches while stage is also set to unveil packages for this year’s championships.
From junior boys defending champion, Nurudeen Hassan to men’s singles champion, Ahmed Adeyinka, the target for the title remains their priority.
Hassan, a member of the senior national team to the last ITTF Africa Senior Championship held in Morocco, believes he hopes to exceed the round of 16 he exited the tournament last year.
“I am ready to battle for the men’s singles title because they experience I had playing alongside the likes of Aruna Quadri, Bode Abiodun and Segun Toriola would be helpful for me in this year’s championship. I hope I can be a title contender and not pretender because I also want to be winner of the Asoju Oba Cup because most the players that have won the competition in the past made their way into the national team to become African stars. I must also admit that it is not going to be an easy task for me because there are a lot of quality players in Lagos State. But I hope to try my best on the title this year,” Hassan said.
For Adeyinka, holding on to the title is his priority as he is targeting the record set by Oladele Sumbo who has won the tournament more than any player since its inception in 1968.
Meanwhile, the family of the late sponsor of the championship, Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas has promised to continue to add glamour to the tournament annually.
They however, pledged to continue the legacy of the late business mogul who started the championship in 1968.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Deji Okoya-Thomas believes the target of discovering quality stars for the country through the championship would be fully sustained not minding the demise of his father and initiator of the annual table tennis tournament, Chief (Dr) Molade Okoya Thomas.
“What the entire family would guarantee is sustenance of the tournament. The standard will never drop and we are very happy for the full backing from the Lagos State Sports Commission, the State’s Table Tennis Association and indeed Lagos State Government. We need to keep developing and encouraging our young table tennis stars until they get to stardom”, said Deji Okoya-Thomas who stated that it would be great if the Asoju Oba Molade Okoya-Thomas table tennis championship could produce players that can play and win world titles,” he said.