Paucity of funds has denied Nigerian players from participating in the 2017 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) African Junior Championships in Tunis, Tunisia from April 9 to April 15.
The Nigerian Pilot reports that Nigeria’s absence from the competition may have cost two of the country’s representatives fighting for slots to participate in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
Ten players, comprising five boys and five girls are billed to compete in Tunisia.
The boys are Azeez Solanke, Abayomi Animashaun, Amadi Umeh, Jamiu Ayanwale and Taiwo Matti.
While the girls are Tosin Oribamise, Agnes Onoja, Rafiat Jimoh, Sukurat Aiyelabegan and Iyanuoluwa Falana.
Solanke and Oribamise are to also take part in the Youth Olympic Games qualifiers also in Tunisia from April 16 to April 17.
The players have been in closed camp organised by the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) for over a week at the National Stadium, Lagos.
The players told the development to Nigerian Pilot that they were disappointed with their not participating in the tournament.
Oribamise said that this is one development that puts off an athlete and makes him or her not to put more into his or her efforts.
She said that she had prepared well with high hopes about the competition.
“My hopes were high and now it’s shattered, I had given my all to training. It wasn’t easy combining both training with my studies but I did it.
“Now all the effort is a waste, well I have learnt in camp and will go back to build up on what I have learnt,’’ she said.
Animashaun appealed to the Ministry of Youth and Sports to ensure that there would not be a recurrence.
He said that they were young players whose heart were fragile and couldn’t keep taking setbacks.
“Now, our not going again with everyone ready with the mind that we are travelling, I feel very bad and disappointed.
“Honestly speaking this can put off some people from playing table tennis again,’’ he said.
Umeh told our correspondent that he’s heart broken and called for more support for table tennis.
He said that he had set a target for himself in Tunisia and now that can’t be achieved.
“I want Nigerians to help table tennis, we need sponsors. When we have sponsors, when funds don’t come from the ministry we can still attend competitions,’’ he said.
Germany-based Funke Oshonaike said that the development had broken her heart.
“I was in Lagos in February for Funke Oshonaike Tabke Tennis Foundation. I invited about 30 talented players in Nigeria for 10 days clinic and competition.
“With the help of Ford Foundation, and some other support I was able to accommodate, feed and clothe all of them for the 7-day clinic.
“I had the best time of my life because I was once like them and I loved them all. I spent about N1 million only for the competition.
“Now, some of the kids are now supposed to be in Tunisia for the Africa Junior Championships starting tomorrow but can’t make it because the sports ministry could not get the funds on time.
“Imagine the players are headed home now because all flights to Tunis are fully booked.
“I’ve got tired of complaining that was why I left my job, family to come and give hope and smile to the talented kids in Nigeria.
“Why is it so hard for Nigeria to make the dream of all these children come true? Don’t they know that these children are our future? She asked fans of the game.
“Why are some people killing talents and the future of our young ones in Nigeria? Above all why am I not a multi-millionaire so that I can take care of these future champions more without waiting for any ministry?
“For how long will Nigeria keep breaking my heart because of my love for my country? I’m totally hurt and heart broken.