Quadri Aruna and Omar Assar will again take their rivalry to Nairobi, Kenya, when the 2023 Africa Cup holds from May 4 to 6 at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, Kenya.
Aruna, who was forced by injury to concede the title in 2022 to Assar at 4-3, will be hoping to reclaim the crown following his recent form at tournaments across the globe.
Currently number 12 in the world, Aruna is the highest ranked African in the world, while Assar, at 33, is the second best rated African. Current African best ranked woman, Dina Meshref, is at present in fine form. She will be up against compatriot and defending champion, Hana Goda, who claimed her first continental title in Lagos last year.
Every participating country is expected to present two players each in men and women events, while Egypt, as the defending champions in men and women, will nominate two players alongside the two champions.
Kenya, as host, will present four players each in men and women events, while Brian Mutua will lead the East African team against the visitors. Already, organisers of the tournament, Kenya Table Tennis Association (KTTA), have assured participants of a top class event, having staged the same competition in 2018.
The Africa Club Championships will precede the Africa Cup, but both tournaments would serve as dress rehearsals for the first World Championships to be staged in Africa in 84 years, which is due to hold in Durban, South Africa from May 20 to 28.
KTTA President, Andrew Mudibo, has no iota of doubt that Kenya is ready to host Africa. “The preparation is on course and Kenya will be ready to host all delegations to the event. Yes, Kenya has started to host major events again and this is in line with our development agenda in terms of developing the local talents we have. In the past Kenya hosted the ITTF World Cup and we have also hosted the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships and several African events,” the KTTA chief stated.
He continued: “For us in Kenya, every event that one participates in is always a unique event. Only the competitors and delegations will be able to give a testimony on the ups and downs of the event that Kenya is hosting once they arrive here. We believe that as usual, the event will be one of great experience and good memories, which all will talk about for many years. That is the uniqueness we hope to achieve.
“The Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani Indoor Gymnasium, which is the venue of the event, is ready. Set-up for the event will be done two days before the championships kick off. The rooms at Ibis Styles where the teams will put up are ready to receive each member of the delegation.
He revealed that Kenya has put in place a fast-track visa process for all delegations coming for the event, adding, “the transport from the airport to the hotel and hotel to the venue is ready and we believe everything will run smoothly.”
Mudibo said that teams should expect to see the rich culture of Kenya on display at the event, including some Kenyan cultural dances at either the opening or closing ceremony.
“As a sport, table tennis is a festival we Africans celebrate each day. We shall showcase to the world that Africa has what it takes to hold world-class events and I am sure this will be the case with the World Championships, later in the month of May, which South Africa would host.
“Africa has come a long way in terms of competitiveness. Through such events, our players should be able to catch up with the rest of the World. If Africa can produce local, good players like Hana Goda of Egypt, then the future of table tennis is quite bright for Africa. This is just the tip of the iceberg to display our talent.”