Hostilities will begin at the 50th edition of the Asoju Oba Molade Okoya Thomas Cup Table Tennis Championship, which serves off today at the Sports Bar of the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere till November 30.
Players are expected to compete for 24 titles in the cadets, junior and senior categories of the championship, while bumper packages await winners of the women and men’s singles events in this year’s edition.
However, many of the past winners of the longest championship in the country are also expected to be part of today’s event.
Schools such as Indian Language School and Greensprings are coming with strong teams both in the cadet and junior events for the one-week tournament.
Speaking on the event, the country’s longest serving table tennis umpire since 1972, John Peters, said that the championship has been a stepping-stone to stardom for many table tennis stars.
“In preparation for Nigeria’s hosting of the second All Africa Games in 1973 in Lagos, the then Chairman of Nigeria Table Tennis Association, the late Dr. Adegboyega Efunkoya in 1972 invited interested sports clubs members to train as umpires, who would officiate at the Games. I attended and thus qualified as a national umpire. My first opportunity to umpire table tennis was at the 1972 Asoju Oba, which was in its fourth edition.
“After a few years, I got involved in anchoring the closing ceremonies of the annual event. Chief Dr. Molade Okoya-Thomas, the sponsor, was so impressed by the manner of my presentation that he nicknamed me ‘Olohun Iyo’, which literally means ‘the man with a sonorous voice’,” Peters said.
The country’s only ITTF blue badge certified umpire, added, “The tournament attracted, and still thus, the best of the best players from across the length and breadth of Lagos State.
“The tournament is the longest non-stop for 50 years now in Lagos, in Nigeria and possibly in Africa. It is important to note that every player that has won in it has always gone ahead to become a national champion. Most of the players who have represented Nigeria came through the tournament.”