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Nigerian table tennis team departs for China
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The Nigerian contingent left Lagos on Thursday for China to attend the World Team Table Tennis Championship in Guangzhou, which serves as Olympics qualifiers for team event.

According to the scribe of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), Segun Oguntade, the team would be led by the national coach, Babatunde Obisanya, while foreign-based players such as African and Commonwealth champion, Segun Toriola; Funke Oshonaike, Edem Offiong, Lanre Jegede, Hakeem Hassan and Nosiru Kazeem are expected to join the team from their base in Europe.

Some of the players that would leave with the delegation today are Ganiat Ogundele, Monday Merotohun, Cecilia Otu and Bose Kaffo, who had all been sweating it out in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, as part of the build-up to the championship.

Nigeria is drawn in the second division of Group H alongside Canada, England, Bulgaria, Australia and Israel.

The duo of Toriola and Merotohun, who have already qualified for the men's singles event at the Olympics as well as Otu and Kaffo for the women's competition, will lead the team's onslaught at the one-week tourney holding at the Guangzhou Gymnasium in south-east China.

Meanwhile, Oguntade is confident that the team would come out tops in the group, as most of the teams in the group are Commonwealth nations they had confronted at previous competitions.

"We hope to lead the group to confirm our status as Africa's number one. We know we have to work hard and this necessitated our players training hard for the championship," Oguntade said. "We also know that our foreign-based players will not let us down because they are more experienced and will be ready to do the nation proud in China," he said.

Also, Lagos State Table Tennis Association (LSTTA) Chairman, Wahid Oshodi, believes the team needs to work harder if it hopes to top the group. Over 8,000 players will jostle for places in this year's Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

(Xinhua News Agency February 21, 2008)

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