Arrangements have been concluded for the maiden edition of Funke Treasure Table Tennis Championship scheduled to hold from September 18 to 23 in Ibadan.
The championship is designed for U-15 girls with the aim of catching them young and nurturing them to stardom.
Speaking at a press conference held at the Ibadan Recreation Club, initiator of the programme, Funke Treasure Durodola, said her target was to groom talented girls to develop in table tennis while combining it with academics.
She noted that Nigerian girls are gifted physically and mentally and can stand alone, saying that the exploits of the likes of Bose Kaffo, Shola Abiodun and Waheed Ekun, among others, who made Nigeria proud during their days remain a reference point.
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“Firstly, I want to give back to my hometown, Ibadan what I gained as a youth and secondly, I want to encourage girls to recreate and refamiliarise with table tennis because you will agree with me that Oyo State has always been in the forefront of the game. We have the likes of Aruna Quadri, Waheed Ekun, Abass Ekun but we should have a new generation of table tennis players that would take the country and the world at large by storm in the near future.
“I want to groom a new generation of table tennis players in Ibadan and Oyo State in general.
“We already have two players each from no fewer than 22 public schools and we would also have participants from 16 private schools. At the end of the day, we will have 88 girls for the championship in addition to the participants from primary schools who will compete in the second category, age 10-14. So we are expecting 88 competitors and 20 learners.
“The winner of the competition is expected to go home with cash prize of N100,000 and table tennis board, while the runner up would earn N75,000 while third and fourth placed winners would go home with N50,000 and N25,000 respectively with trophies,” Durodola said.
Also, Chairman of Oyo State Table Tennis Association, Waheed Ekun, has lauded the organiser saying Nigeria can unearth hidden stars from such a grass roots competition.
He stated that students can combine sports with education effectively, just as he praised the organiser for her noble initiative.
“Education is very important, what Funke Treasure is doing today is very good because if we had the opportunity of what she is doing, we would have done better,” said Ekun who was the first player to win table tennis gold for the defunct Western State.
Also, the ambassador of the championship, Bose Kaffo who is a Nigerian professional table tennis player who competed at five Olympics; Shola Abiodun and Waheed Ekun were honoured with awards during the event.