By Christian Njoku
Calabar, Jan. 5, 2021 Women’s Table Tennis Doubles gold medalist, Cecilia Akpan, on Tuesday appealed to governments at all levels, the private sector and well-meaning Nigerians to save the future of the sport in Nigeria.
Akpan, the 2019 African Games Women’s Double gold medalist, made the appeal in an interview with newsmen in Calabar.
The 34-year-old medalist said the lack of equipment was impeding the growth of the sport in the country, adding that the private sector needed to come in and fill the gap.
“It is hard for me to say that table tennis has a bright future in Nigeria because of the lack of equipment. The sport needs sponsors to come in and assist the game to grow.
“We need people to come up and help to provide equipment, that is all we need to make the difference, we have the talent and stamina to win any competition.
“We cannot play with low quality kit and be expected to win internationally; most of us play with very low equipment because that is what we can afford,” she said.
According to her, the rubber use in playing is about N85,000 and I change it every six weeks for optimal performance which is just to manage.
“Imagine a young girl or boy coming up to play the game, how will he or she cope with the equipment?
“A lot of young talents that are supposed to come up and take over from us can’t do so because they cannot afford the equipment.
“In fact we are in dire need of facilities and competitions to keep us in form and developed young athletes,” Akpan said.
Mr Usen Umoh, Vice Chairman, Cross River Table Tennis Association, said what drives the young players in the state was their enthusiasm and passion for the game.
Umoh said that players from Cross River had represented and were still representing the country at different events while upcoming youngsters are equally being groomed to take over.
“Though, it has not been easy because of the cost of equipment for the game, we have managed to continue to motivate the players.
“A pair of rackets for a player is about N50,000, this is why we call on the private sector and well-meaning Nigerians to come and support the sport in the state.
“Some indigenes of the state like Mr Orok Duke, Chairman, Cross River Table Tennis Association, and Mr Edim Inok, Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had assisted in provision of facilities but more is needed.
“If these kids are engaged positively, there will be fewer troubles in the society and our country will be better for it,” he said