Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire dominate West Africa Challenge

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Fatimo Bello
Nigeria's Fatimo Bello is the women's singles champion in Abidjan.

Nigeria and host nation – Cote d’Ivoire emerged as champions at the maiden ITTF West Africa Challenge concluded at the weekend in Abidjan.

It was Nigeria’s Fatimo Bello that emerged as champion in the women’s event after beating compatriot – Tosin Oribamise 4-2 in the final of the maiden ITTF West Africa Challenge held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

In the men’s final, home boy – Oba Oba Kizito thrilled the fans with his performance after a convincing 4-0 win over Benin Republic’s Monday Olabiyi.

From the group stage, Bello did not drop a game to sail to the final where she had to come from 2-0 down to beat Oribamise and emerged as the champion.

However, Kizito admitted that the quarterfinal tie against Nigeria’s Augustine Emmanuel remained the toughest match he played in the competition.

“I am so happy that I made my people proud with this win as I was really determined to become champion. It was a bit easy in the final but the quarterfinal win has boosted my confidence that I can win the tournament,” the 24-year-old said.

For Bello, the victory did not come on a platter of gold. “It was not easy at all because I had to come from behind to win the encounter. I am very happy and grateful to the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) for the opportunity to represent my country. I must also acknowledge the support from the Abidjan particularly being my first time in this lovely country and I look forward to returning next time,” Bello said.

Cote d’Ivoire’s Nadia Kemanan settled for bronze in the women while Ghana’s Derek Abrefa finished third in the men’s event.

The winners are expected to represent the region at the 2020 Africa Top 16 Cup in Tunisia.

A satisfied Deputy Secretary General of FITT, Ali Kanate described hosting the tournament as a good development for Cote d’Ivoire, particularly for the growth of table tennis in the country.

His words: “I am so excited that within a short time, we were able to stage this tournament. Mobilising all the teams was a challenge but with the huge support from ITTF, this was sorted out and we have 11 out of the 15 countries that made up the region.

“The usual bottlenecks synonymous with the first day were there but we believe we have learnt from hosting this competition. This has again shown our ability to stage major competitions, having hosted the 2018 World Junior Circuit and African Junior Championship successfully,” Kanate added.

11 of the 15 countries in West Africa competed at the two-day championship hosted by the Federation of Ivorien Table Tennis (FITT) with support from ITTF.

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