Chatsworth youth rub shoulders with Africa’s finest in table tennis championships

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Africa’s table tennis champion, Quadri Aruna from Nigeria, held a youth clinic with up and coming young table tennis players at the Chatsworth Youth Centre, south of Durban.

This was on the side-lines of the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals under way in Durban. Aruna is the first African player to be ranked top 10 in the world.

Rare opportunity

Young table tennis players gathered at the Nelson Mandela Community Youth Centre to rub shoulders with Africa’s best. In between the tips, they were overjoyed at the opportunity to play a game or two against their heroes.

Khanyokuhle Mntungwa and Thahira Ismail were among the young table tennis enthusiasts. Both say the opportunity to meet some of the best in the world is a once in a lifetime moment.

“It is a very nice experience. I’m chilled and you get scared a little bit but when you are playing with them, it is a really nice experience. They greet you; ask your name, but it a very great experience to be in a same room with Quadri Aruna and other table tennis players. Play honourably, don’t do bad stuff.  Play with honour have fun and be true to yourself.” Says Mtungwa

Ismail adds, “I would say I know quite a lot because I have been playing for five years continuously. It was actually a teacher from my primary school who made me to start playing and then I started to enjoy it and then I started to be more serious because this is obviously going to be an eye opener. Many people are going to be interested in playing. It is an awesome feeling.”

Multiple African table tennis champion, Aruna, says he believes African players stand a good chance at the world champs currently taking place.

“I believe everything is possible. I was in quarter finals last year and properly it might be a time for Africa, anything is possible. With the previous results in world table tennis, everything is possible. I actually believe it is possible, I think it is not an advantage but it will motivate all the players from Africa this is our continent and it means we have a lot of support and that will encourage and motivate us a lot,” says Aruna.

Nurturing young talent

He emphasised the importance of nurturing young talent.

He adds, “It is very important to give back to society and that is what I have been doing in Nigeria. I have an academy, I support junior table tennis players also here I know I have a lot of fans that is my reason I came here today. It is very important to give back to society to show appreciation of the support that has been given to me. In January I was here and I realised I have a lot of fans, so for me coming here to show my appreciation to them that I like what they are doing.”

Meanwhile, nine time South African table tennis champion, Shane Overmeyer, says Team South Africa will give it their all against some of the bigger teams like the defending champions China.

“I think this is a very good thing for the game, however, for our national team it is a very big ask to be able to get to the finals. They are not full time; a lot of guys that are here from Asia, from Europe they all play full time table tennis. I am sure that they are going to give their best shot. We are here to inspire them, to motivate them just like the first match I had, it is all exhibition style to play against a junior. I always try to make the match a coaching session because they do not get this type of information,” Overmeyer explains.

The development clinic also highlighted calls for increased support for the development of table tennis in Africa.

The tournament runs until May 28th at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban.