Being the first African nation to host the ITTF World Cup in 1989, international attention will return to Nairobi, Kenya come March 1 to 3 as the Eastern African nation welcome the best 32 players in the continent for the 2018 ITTF Africa Top 16 Cup.
With less than two months to the championships, the President of Kenya table Tennis Association (KTTA), Andrew Mudibo is confident that Kenyans are ready to stage one of the continent’s prestigious tournament which serves as qualification for the 2018 ITTF World Cups.
“90 percent of the preparations has already been completed and we are remaining with just a few lose ends to tie up. The venue that will host the tournament is the Moi International Sports Stadium, Kasarani indoor Gymnasium in Nairobi and the Kenya Government through our Ministry of Sports are fully committed in Kenya putting up a strong event and their support is in several areas that we have requested them to come in. This process is continuous,” he said.
On the eagerness of Kenyans to watch the best of the continent, the KTTA boss said: “Many Kenyans who you talk to are looking forward to watching the best players in Africa. This is good for us as most of the times it is the strong sports like football, rugby and athletics that draw large crowds but this time round we hope the Kenyan fans will be able to come and be part of the legacy that this tournament will leave behind and Kenya Table Tennis Association will go all out to publicize the event to the Kenyan public for them to come and enjoy the games. We shall also be giving access to schools to bring their students to watch and maybe one of them will pick up the sport and be the next Segun Toriola,Quadri Aruna, Omar Assar or even Olufunke Oshonaike.”
“As an Association, the hosting of the Championships is part of our development strategy that we have been working on. Kenya will continue to hold high profile events and we shall be in the forefront as this is our plan to grow and also tap the raw talent that we have in the country. The hosting of the event will assist us to be able to amplify the work we are doing at the grassroots. For example we have a project that is called “Let the girls shine” that involves girls from the underprivileged areas of the society and our target is to get at least 5,000 girls below the age of 12 years playing Table Tennis. The support that we have so far received from Sports for Tomorrow and TIAS of Japan and also the German Embassy here in Nairobi is quite encouraging not forgetting equipment donation from Ping San Frontiers and also philanthropist Jan Berner of Sweden,” Mudibo said.
With a target of February 2018 to round up the preparation, Mudibo said: “We are working round the clock to ensure everything is in place and our target is to make sure we are ready to roll by the second week of February in all areas. Kenya has always hosted successfully major Table Tennis tournaments in the past. We have always been good hosts and I believe we shall continue to pick up from the previous events that Kenya was hosting in the past which also included the table tennis World Cup in 1989, when this was the first World Cup to be hosted in Africa for any sport.”
On the impact of staging the tournament on the fortune of table tennis in Kenya, Mudibo said: “When we agreed to host the event our main aim was for this tournament to leave a legacy which we can be able to build up in exposing the game to more Kenyans and the business world so that we can get the required support to be able to compete with the rest of Africa and in the not too distant future the world. ITTF and ATTF have provided high class equipment for the tournament and the equipment will remain with us here in Kenya after the event. This support is very good in terms of assisting in growing the sport to higher levels and we do really appreciate this assistance which also includes in other areas.
For Mudibo, the OC team has been very supportive in terms of preparation. I have a strong team which I believe in and who have all been working hard to ensure that we give the best that we can be able to offer. Africa is known for its hospitality and for you to offer great hospitality then you have to be prepared. The support that I have received not just in Kenya but also from our friends from the other countries has really pushed us forward. We shall know of how the task was when the event ends on the 3rd of March not forgetting that we shall also be having two subsidiary events taking place at the same time. There is a media symposium and Women in Sport Conference. Both of these subsidiary events are part of the legacy that the Africa Continental Cup will leave behind in Kenya and as you can see we are really determined to ensure that table tennis takes the game a naught higher and this is what we all want and it’s good for the sport.”
On the readiness of Kenyan team for the tournament, Mudibo said: “The good performance that our players displayed in the ITTF Africa Eastern Region Championships in Mauritius has encouraged us that our players are on the right path and will not be overrun by any of the players who are coming for the Tournament. The message from our players to rest is for them to come and enjoy playing in Nairobi and let the tournament be a memorable one for all and as we say in Kenya “Tucheze Tebo” (let’s play table tennis). The Nairobi event must produce African Ambassadors for the game.”
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