Lagos can count itself as the ‘Mecca of table tennis in Africa’ considering its huge fans presence whenever it hosts the annual Seamaster ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open.
This tournament, which started as a pilot competition in 2013, has grown to become one of the pioneer tournaments in the ITTF Challenge Plus.
From the paltry numbers of countries that featured in the 2014 edition, hundreds of players from 32 national associations are expected to converge in the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria – Lagos for the five-day tournament.
Players who had graced the tournament in the past and are still eager to be part of it include Antoine Hachard of France, Mudit Dani of India and Sarah De Nutte of Luxembourg.
For Mudit Dani, the excitement in Lagos is incomparable: “The crowd at the ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open was the biggest highlight and difference between this event and other ones. Everyone was super energetic. Not only did they support Nigerian players, but it seemed like they came to support the game. It was a truly special feeling to play in Lagos. The crowds, their energy, the atmosphere is electric. It is like no other tournament I have played anywhere in the world and this is the feeling shared by many players who I have spoken to,” said the young Indian.
For Sarah De Nutte, the energy level of the Lagos fans has been awesome: “The atmosphere in Lagos is great; there are not many tournaments with that many spectators like in Lagos. I think it’s so nice to play there because the crowd is always fun and excited to see some table tennis matches and are always cheering the players, no matter where they are from,” Sarah De Nutte said.
Despite confirming his absence at this year’s tournament, Antoine Hachard cherishes every moment he spent in Lagos in 2018 as a finalist. “The atmosphere in Lagos was crazy, people are screaming for you, which are unusual and amazing. It is a special atmosphere as the fans are so involved and they want you (player) to fight until the end,” said the Frenchman.
Apart from the fans’ engagement in the sport, the organisation coupled with the Lagos hospitality were the high points for the visitors.
Mudit Dani said: “It is a very well organised event. The hotel and food are good, the hall is nice and always filled with energetic crowds and players are well cared for in terms of transport, lounge and security among others. My experience at the 2018 Nigeria Open was great! The crowd, playing conditions and hospitality were all perfect. Being my first ever senior pro tour event made it even more special. If I had to put it briefly, I hope to be back again this year because it was one of the most memorable weeks of my life.”