Team Nigeria got the better of Egypt in the men’s Team final at the ongoing ITTF African Championships in Mauritius, beating the North Africans 3-1 to win a much coveted GOLD to be crowned Champions.
It was by no means an easy victory for Nigeria, but the Nigerian players rose to the occasion when it mattered most to get one over their arch-rivals. Egypt are the undoubtedly the dominant team on the continent, and were rightly installed as favourites to win especially after their women’s team had won their category.
With the match tied at 1-1, after Aruna Quadri had given Nigeria the lead with a 3-2 win over Mohammed El-Beiali, the Egyptians responded to level up through El-Bieali who came back to beat Bode Abiodun 3-0 (12-10, 11-9, 11-4)
However the crucial point of the game came in the match between Segun Toriola and Khalid Assar. Toriola took the first game 13-11, but Assar won the next two games 11-1, 11-8 to go 2-1 up.
Starring defeat and facing the danger of handing Egypt a 2-1 overall lead, Toriola dug into his wealth of experience and outlasted Assar, winning the next two games 11-8, 11-8 to restore Nigeria’s lead.
The next match proved to be decisive as Egypt needed to win it in order to still be in contention. However Quadri had other ideas. Although there was not to much to separate between him and Ahmed Saleh in the first four games as they were tied at 2-2, the fifth game ended the contest. Quadri was imperious as he closed it at 11-2, ending it at 3-2 and handing Nigeria a 3-1 overall victory.
With just a slot available for Africa in the men’s team event at the Table Tennis World Championships in 2019, Nigeria with the triumph gets the sole ticket to represent the continent in Japan.
In the women’s team category, Egypt had already beaten Nigeria 3-1 before the men’s final, and hoped they would replicate that in the men’s category and make it a clean sweep, but the Nigerian men’s team ensured that they each share the spoils.
Olufunke Oshonaike won Nigeria’s only match in the women’s team final, and it didn’t even come easy. Oshonaike who trailed 1-0, had to battle hard to win Farah Abdel-Aziz 3-2 and give her teammates a lifeline. But the Egyptians were good on the day, and were deservedly champions.
With more actions to come on Day 4, Nigeria will be hoping for more success in the Singles event, but especially in the Mixed Doubles where they have two separate teams in the quarter-finals.