With better infrastructure, more sponsors, we can successfully host Challenge Plus, says Oshodi

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Wahid Enitan Oshodi

Chairman of the Local Organising Committee of the just concluded International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Challenge Seamaster Nigeria Open, Wahid Enitan Oshodi believes Lagos can successfully host the higher version of the competition, Challenge Plus, given certain developments.

The yearly ITTF Challenge Seamaster Nigeria Open was recently upgraded to Challenge Plus by the world body in recognition of the growing status of the championship in the international calendar.

The Challenge Plus is a World Tour unlike the Challenge Open and also offers more prize money, world ranking points, better playing conditions and TV production.Speaking at the end of the Nigeria Open at the Teslim Balogun Stadium on Sunday, Oshodi said the new status also comes with its problems, aside other positives it brings to the nation.

“The Challenge Plus is something that the ITTF has come up with. What has happened is that there is a slight gap between the challenge tournaments. While some are at a higher level, some are at their lower helm. I think the ITTF has come with the World Tour to have a higher class of the tournament.

“In this Challenge Plus, we will have better players, a lot of more support from the ITTF in organising the tournament. I think our new status was due to the fact that we have worked hard over the years. Our viewership has been massive for the table tennis in the country,” he said.

The former president of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation, who expressed excitement over the new development, added: “I think we have the most unique event in the world. The game has been a gentlemanly behaviour sport where fans clap their hands for exciting moments, but in Lagos, the noise that accompanies the tournament is unique compared to others. I think the fans here at the Nigeria Open are special breeds and I believe that is what the ITTF has seen and why they want the championship to grow.

“So, as we move up to the Challenge Plus, of course that comes with its own problems. You have a lot more to do in terms of hospitality, infrastructure. And for us mostly, it’s the infrastructure that we need to improve. We can’t do it ourselves, but the Lagos State government has been so kind, generous over the years as regards the facilities they’ve put at our disposal over the years and we need to work on them,” he said.

The former Commissioner for Sports in Lagos, who spoke on the quality of players the competition is already attracting, said the organisers hope to bring top 15 ranked players in the world for the next year’s competition.“What we really need to improve upon is probably the infrastructure because we’ve got everything in terms of being able to attract top class players with the viewership, which has been massive over the years over the years.

“Recently, I had a conversation with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and as you know Lagos is doing a lot in terms of infrastructure, and we are hoping to get a bigger venue may be in two to three years down the line.

“Once this is done, then we can be looking at inviting top 10 players in the ITTF ranking. My dream for the next tournament is that we will be talking about top 20 to 25 players in the top 100. The prize money for the World Tour Challenge Plus for next year has risen from $46,000 to $60,000. Hopefully, we will get more support from the corporate bodies and others. We will also work hard to ensure we bring in top 15 players in the ITTF ranking to the next edition of the championship,” he stated.