Under the leadership of Khaled El-Salhy as the President of Africa Table Tennis Federation (ATTF), new grounds and records have been set with all eyes on the continent come September 4 to 19 at the 11th All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville.
The continental multi-sport event will return to its birth place this year where it all started in 1965 in Brazzaville. Thousands of athletes from the 54 projected countries are expected to compete in the competition, which is meant to engender friendship among the participants.
Since 1973 when table tennis became part of the events, all eyes will once again be on table tennis this year as one of the 22 sports listed for the games.
However, ATTF boss said as usual table tennis will attract more participants this year as over 30 countries will compete in seven events.
“I am dreaming that we will continue to secure the best image and promote the interest of table tennis among all other sports in Congo Brazzaville. I hope we can have the best look due to top class equipment. I look forward to the best feedback due to the results as well as the best media coverage based on the stiff competition now among Nigeria, Egypt and Congo Brazzaville as the host and also with its new Chinese players whom are eligible to take part in the Games as per International Olympic Committee (IOC) eligibility rules, and this will make the temperature much higher in Brazzaville come September,” El-Salhy said.
He added: “We are expecting over 30 countries, which is a big target. At the 2011 edition in Mozambique, we had over 26 countries as a record and I saw that table tennis was number one considering the results from the participating countries.”
On the eligibility of the new Chinese imports by Congo Brazzaville, he said: “The rules are clear on this matter because such players could not participate easily in our ITTF/ATTF official events due to applying the ITTF eligibility rules, while for the All Africa Games, IOC eligibility rules will be applied and this permits some more players to join the Games due to the Olympic Charter. The presence of the Chinese players will give more challenge to our top players to prove that the real African players are not less than those in Europe and Asia.”
For the giant stride made in the continent in the last three years, El-Salhy said: “I am so happy for the big steps we have made regarding growth and popularity of table tennis not only worldwide but also in Africa. For example, two years no one could believe that we could have live streaming on YouTube and some TV channels for our African Cup or African Championships as we have now in 2015. Also, the membership of ATTF this year has reached 51 affiliated National Associations. This was made possible because we have been and still working as a team in ATTF Executive Committee (EC) to enlarge the number of Affiliated Associations within ITTF/ATTF, and also to promote the participation and good organization of our activities to give the sport more popularity.”
The table tennis number one citizen in Africa acknowledged the crucial roles played by Nigeria and Egypt to promote the growth of the sport. “The traditional competition between Nigeria and Egypt, and lately with Congo Brazzaville is very important to promote the game in their countries and Africa, I see that Nigeria and Egypt are the two legs of table tennis in Africa and they complement each other in terms of their performance at global level,” he explained.