African boys champion Nigeria has been listed among the top 16 teams that will compete at the 2019 ITTF World Junior Championships in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand from November 24 to December 1, 2019.
The eight-man team with coaches – Dotun Omoniyi and Bode Ajayi will depart Lagos aboard Qatar Airline enroute Dubai to Thailand and they are expected to arrive tomorrow before the kick off of the tournament on Sunday.
The boys’ team led by Azeez Solanke as well as the trio of Taiwo Mati, Augustine Emmanuel and Jamiu Ayanwale has been seeded 13th with Russia topping the seeding list.
The girls’ team has Sukurat Aiyelabegan, Rofiat Jimoh, Iyanuoluwa Falana and Vivian Oku and they will be joined in the tournament by the Egyptian team led by 11-year-old Hana Goda who recently won the cadet title at the Portugal Open.
According to the boys’ singles seeding list released by the world table tennis ruling body, Nigeria’s Solanke is the best rated African player seeded 35th among the 80 players listed in the seeding list.
Solanke who was part of the Nigerian team to the 2019 Team World Cup in Tokyo, Japan, believes the experience of playing alongside Aruna Quadri would be handy for him in Thailand. “I leant a lot from being part of the team to Tokyo. Even though I did not play but watching the likes of Quadri playing against the best in the world has improved my knowledge of the sport and also boosted my confidence going to the world juniors,” Solanke said.
For the President of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), Ishaku Tikon, the players are expected to replicate their Accra feat in Thailand. “This is another platform for the players to test their might against the best junior players in the world and we feel we need to start exposing them early so that they can be ready to take over from the senior ones. We are hoping that they can make Nigeria and Africa proud as the champion in the boys’ event,” the NTTF boss said.