Egypt, Portugal and Russia are among seven nations to have confirmed entry for the forthcoming International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour, tagged ‘Lagos Open’.
The 2015 ITTF Lagos Open will be hosted by Nigeria between March 10 and March 14 in Lagos, according to the sport’s governing body.
Other nations expected at the four-day Table Tennis tourney include Benin Republic, Cameroon, Congo DR, Djibouti, Sierra Leone and Togo.
Teams would vie for the $46,000 prize money at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere.
“Being the year of the All-Africa Games, most Nigerian players know that this is an avenue for them to play their way into the national team,” Tournament Director, Oluranti Lajide said. “It is going to be exciting.”
No fewer than 100 players are expected at the tournament, which is the second challenge series in the ITTF World Tour calendar after the Hungary Open held in January.
The Egyptian team will be led by current ITTF Africa Senior Champion, Omar Assar. Assar will be joined by 12 of his compatriots, including winner of the Women’s Singles Event at the 2015 ITTF Africa Senior Championships, Dina Meshref.
Portugal has the trio of Diogo Silva, Andre Silva and Jieni Shao, while Russia will be represented by Irina Ermakova.
Debutantes Iran would have the duo of Afshin Noroozi and Nima Alamian in their team.
Hosts Nigeria will have current ITTF star player and reigning ITTF Africa Doubles Champion, Aruna Quadri, among its contingents while veteran and record six-time Olympian, Segun Toriola, is also listed.
Nigeria’s female representatives would be led by Germany-based star, Funke Oshonaike, alongside Portugal-based Edem Offiong and winner of the maiden edition of the tournament, Cecilia Otu-Akpan.
Lajide said this year’s tournament is unique because of the caliber of stars on parade as attention has now been focused on Nigeria’s Quadri and likes of top Egyptian players like Assar.
“From the quality of players coming for this year’s championship, it is obvious that the feat achieved by Quadri has really attracted more players to this tournament,” Lajide explained. “Everybody is eager to face the ITTF star player.
“The Egyptian will surely be aiming to defend the title they won last year, while Nigeria’s female team will have another opportunity to prove critics wrong that they declined.”