Debutant Ahmed Bello dazzled as Nigeria’s Union Bank Sports Club yesterday finished third at the 2015 ITTF African Club Championships concluded in Yaounde, Cameroon.
Bello who was making his international debut for the bankers’ team failed to save the team from losing 3-0 to Egypt’s Ahly in the semi-final stage of the men’s event at the Multi-Purpose Complex in Yaounde.
To make it to the last four, Union Bank tutored by Coach Samson Ajayi nearly caused an upset in their first group match against defending champion, Club Avenir of Congo Brazzaville made up Chinese-born stars – Jianan Wang and Bin Hu as well as their Nigerian imports – Suraju Saka and Saheed Idowu.
After Azeez Ogunlade fell to Wang 3-0, debutant Ahmed Bello caused the biggest upset of the competition when he defeated Africa’s number six ranked player, Suraju Saka 3-2 to give the Nigerian team a ray of hope. But David Fayele could not withstand Saheed Idowu as he was beaten 3-0. Again, Ahmed Bello became the cynosure of all eyes as he gave Wang a run for his money in the fourth match and without any doubt it was the experience of the Chinese that aided his 3-1 triumph over the unknown Nigerian. The Congolese team won 3-1.
However, this defeat did not dampen the spirit of the young Nigerians as they walloped their counterparts from Cameroon and Ethiopia to set up a semifinal clash against Ahly of Egypt which has top players like Omar Assar, El-Sayed Lashin and Mohammed El-Beiali. The Nigerian side surrendered to the Egyptians to settle for bronze medal.
However, Saheed Idowu was particularly thrilled with the performance of Bello, saying, “He played as if everything was at stake and he never bothered about the pedigree of his opponent especially being his first international outing. I am impressed and I hope players like this can be encouraged in Nigeria,” Idowu said.