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Assar, Aruna, lead six other Africans to 2024 ITTF World Cups

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Assar, Aruna, lead six other Africans to 2024 ITTF World Cups

For the first time in the history of the ITTF World Cups, eight African players led by Egypt’s Omar Assar and Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna have been confirmed for the $1m prize money elite tournament taking place in Macao, China from April 15 to 21.

The annual tournament which has been rested for some years will be making a return as part of ITTF’s strategic vision and unwavering dedication to revitalizing the sport’s illustrious heritage. With the centenary celebrations of table tennis approaching in 2026, this initiative according to ITTF embodies the world table tennis ruling body’s commitment to infusing iconic events with renewed energy and excitement.

A total of 48 players will earn coveted spots in the Singles World Cup lineup as 44 players will qualify through the Continental Cups or World Ranking, with up to two host association players receiving nominations. Each country is expected to enter up to four players each, excluding the reigning World Champion and U19 World Champion, who secure automatic qualification.

2023 African Games champion Assar and finalist – Aruna top the list of African players already listed for the championships.

In the men’s event, Assar and Aruna will be joined by Egypt’s duo of Ahmed Saleh and Mohamed El-Beaili, while 2023 African Games champion Egypt’s Hana Goda as compatriots – Mariam Alhodaby and Yousra Helmy as well as Cameroon’s Sarah Hanffou competing in the women’s event.

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Since its inception in 1980 in Hong Kong, China, the World Cup format has evolved with the assembling of the sport’s elite from every corner of the globe for a fierce competition.

With an electrifying experience and a new playing system, the action kicks off with Stage 1, where players are divided into 16 groups of 3, engaging in intense round-robin battles. The top-ranked players lead the charge in each group, while the rest are drawn in using a modified snake system, ensuring every match is a showdown of skill and strategy. To keep the competition fierce and fair, players from the same association are pitted against different groups.

The winners of each group will advance to the knockout draw of Stage 2 while the Galaxy Arena, the premier indoor venue in Macao, China with its cutting-edge arena will blend the world of table tennis with entertainment, delivering an unprecedented spectacle for spectators worldwide.

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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African Games medallists ready for Michael & Felicia Alabi National Table Tennis championships 

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Three of the players who claimed medals for Nigeria at the 13th African Games are expected to be among the competitors at the 4th Michael & Felicia Alabi Memorial National Table Tennis Championships taking place in Otan Ayegbaju in Osun State.

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The annual tournament is organised by the Osun State Table Tennis Association (OSTTA) with technical support from the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) and sponsored by the Michael & Felicia Alabi Memorial as well as Canada-based Jodal Health Care.

The championships have also been upgraded to a national ranking event for the players as the results will be used to determine the ranking of local-based players.

Teenage sensation Matthew Kuti; Amadi Umeh, and Sukurat Aiyelabegan are among the top players confirmed for the men’s and women’s singles events by the organisers as over 28 states will be heading to the Land of Virtue for the five-day tournament.

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Apart from being a medallist at the African Games, Kuti and Umeh will be aiming for the top prize as both players will be relying on the experience they garnered at the African Games while Aiyelabegan will slug it out with the likes of Bisola Asaju and Bose Odusanya in the women’s singles.

A determined Umeh believes he is ready to claim the title this year as he has been shaping up for the tournament with the sole aim of adding the title to his laurels. “I am ready anytime and I know it is going to be tough as most of the players want to wrestle some of us that have featured for the national team,” he boasted.

According to the Chairman of the OSTTA, Ayo Alabi, the record entries have added value to the tournament particularly as the tournament would be used as a ranking event for local-based players.

“We have concluded all arrangements as regards transportation and accommodation of all athletes and officials who are coming for the event. Hotels have been booked while buses will be provided to convey athletes and officials from their camps to the venue daily. We have also secured the services of security agencies to ensure orderliness and provide adequate security for all visitors and guests. I want to assure you that the competition will be the best-ever organized than the previous editions,” Alabi said.

“The last edition saw over 400 participants, which clearly shows the growing status of the tournament. I look forward to an exciting tournament while it will allow some upcoming players to showcase their talents,” he added.

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Aruna returns to top 20 in latest ITTF Ranking

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Assar, Aruna, lead six other Africans to 2024 ITTF World Cups

Quadri Aruna made a quick return to the top 20 in the latest ITTF Ranking released on Tuesday, April 16, by the world table tennis ruling body.

In the rating list made public by ITTF, the Nigerian gained three steps up the ranking to occupy 19th spot in the ranking. In the last two rankings, Aruna slid to 22 after missing the World Team Championships in Korea as well as the WTT Champions in Incheon but he has fought his way back to the elite rank of the rating.

African Games champion Omar Assar of Egypt also gained one step up the rating to be ranked 16 in the world.

Also, Aruna started his campaign at the ITTF World Cups Macao 2024, on a good note with a 4-0 (11-6, 11-4, 11-6, 11-6) convincing win over Puerto Rico’s Daniel Gonzalez to set the final group 15 tie against Portugal’s Marcos Freitas on Wednesday, April 17 at the Galaxy Arena.

Aruna occupied the top spot in the group as Freitas had earlier beaten Gonzalez 4-0 (17-15, 11-7, 11-7, 11-1) but the Nigerian had more points than the Portuguese to be rated number one in the group.

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But the tie between Aruna and Freitas will decide the winner of the group who will then advance to the second stage (knockout) of the competition.

Speaking after winning his first match, Aruna said: “I’m very happy. It’s my third time here in Macao and it’s my first time winning a match here in Macao, so I feel very happy and excited,” he said.

Like Aruna, Assar started well in Group 16 with an overwhelming 4-0 win over Iran’s Noshad Alamiyan to set up a deciding group tie against Sweden’s Truls Moregard on Wednesday, April 17.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Mohamed El-Beiali and Yousra Helmy have exited the World Cups after losing their second group match of the competition.

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Record Entries for 4th Micheal & Felicia Alabi National Table Tennis Championship

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For the first time in the history of the annual Micheal & Felicia Alabi Memorial National Championship, over 28 states beat the registration deadline of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF)-sanctioned national ranking event taking place in Osun State from April 22 to 26.

From the list of entries received by NTTF, 53 men and 38 women will compete in the senior singles event while over 34 players will jostle for honours in the U-15 singles event as the para and veteran events also received large entries for this year.

The yearly championships are organised by the Osun State Table Tennis Association (OSTTA) with technical support from NTTF and sponsored by the Micheal & Felicia Alabi Memorial as well as Canada-based Healthcare and it has been attracting top players

Tournament referee John Peters described the turnout as a result of the upgrading of the championships to the national ranking event while the hospitality by the sponsors has encouraged teams to identify with the fourth edition.

“We are indeed overwhelmed by the turnout of teams for this year’s event because making it a national ranking event will help NTTF to identify talents as well as rate the players based on their performance in national events. It is going to be exciting this year looking at the quality of players that have been confirmed for the tournament, it promises to be explosive as this is the only tournament to be staged nationally this year. We are expecting several upsets especially from the junior players who have been doing well lately and for me, I see new champions emerging in all the events,” Peters said.

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The former ITTF blue badge umpire however, lauded the sponsor for keeping faith with the annual staging of the tournament while urging other corporate bodies and individuals to support table tennis.

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