The Mustapha brothers, Mustapha (10) and Musa (9) were yesterday the cynosure of all eyes on the Day Two of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Nigeria Open Challenge Series at the Molade Okoya Thomas Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere.
Though they both lost their matches, their exposure at the championship is projected to help them in the future growth of their games.
While Mustapha lost to Nigeria’s Augustine Emmanuel 11-3, 11-2, 11-8 in the first group game and to Wang Xinyang of China in the second, his younger brother, Tobi Falana 11-3 defeated Musa, 11-6, 11-2 in his first group game before falling to Wael Ziad of Egypt in his second game in the U-21 men’s singles.
Mustapha, whose role model is Germany’s Timo Boll, said: “We began playing table tennis in 2017 and have played in a few other tournaments but the Nigeria Open is our first international tournament. We have learnt a lot from playing against more experienced players.”
An optimistic Musa said confidently that the future belongs to him: “I will win the Nigeria Open in future.”
Meanwhile, following the global acceptance of the Nigeria Open Challenge Series as well as the improved organisation the championship has enjoyed, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has decided to raise the status of the yearly event to Challenge Plus from next year’s edition.
The Challenge Plus offers more prize money, world-ranking points, better playing conditions and TV production during the competition.
Other countries in this new grade include North Korea, Oman, Portugal, Paraguay and Canada.
The Challenge Series is the Tour below the Premier ITTF World Tour, with its goal of providing players from around the world valuable playing opportunities to get the experience and world ranking points to the next step of playing at ITTF World Tour events.
Chief Executive Officer of ITTF, Steve Dainton stated: “The increased amount of ITTF Challenge Series events shows the increased interested in organising table tennis events and the proven success of the change of our world ranking at the start of 2018.
These 17 events added to our 13 ITTF World Tour events means that we have 30 tour events in 2019, which provides our players with immense value and fits in with the ITTF’s strategy of having a fully professionally run global tour by 2021.”
Mexico is one of the new names in the second tier of events together with fellow newcomers Morocco, Turkey, Serbia and Indonesia.
Spain, Slovenia, Croatia, Thailand, Poland and Belarus all successfully retain their status as Challenge Series hosts for 2019.