Abidjan, the national capital of Cote d’Ivoire and one of the most populous French-speaking cities in Africa, is abuzz on a much higher scale on Saturday November 2, 2019.

Reason: The best table tennis players in West Africa are in the city ready to do battle for regional honours over Saturday November 3 and Sunday November 3, 2019 at the Multipurpose Hall in Trenchville.

There are 15 countries in the region and 11 of them are already here for the two-day showpiece, with 39 participants aiming for the regional slots at the 2020 Africa Top 16 Cup.

The ping-pong gladiators – 21 men and 18 women – will be assessed based on their prowess on the table to pick West Africa’s best who will represent the region at the glamorous continental championship to be hosted by Tunisia in 2020.

Excitement over the feast of great table tennis play expected at this tournament is sky high. It was palpable in the air on Thursday, October 31, at a press briefing held to herald the qualifiers by the host national association – Federation of Ivorien Table Tennis (FITT).

At the briefing, President, FITT, Prof. Germain Karou, who is also the Secretary General of Western Africa Region, told the media that all was set for the tournament.

Karou said: “We have put everything in place to ensure a smooth tournament and with the huge support from ITTF coupled with the backing from the government of Cote d’Ivoire, we are ready to host the best regional championship.

“As the region with the largest number of countries, I am happy to inform you that 11 of the 15 countries will be in Abidjan for the tournament. This is indeed an encouragement for us in the region.

“On behalf of the President, ITTF West Africa, Wahid Oshodi, I am happy to officially open the tournament and welcome all our visitors to Abidjan, which is one of Africa’s cities of pride,” Karou added.

Also, he has prepared for the qualifiers for two whole months and 24-year-old Oba Kizito now says he is unstoppable on his home turf at the 1st ITTF Western Africa Challenge, which serves off today in Abidjan, Cote de’Ivoire.

Based on his meticulous preparations, the Ivorien national champion is cocksure that no opponent can halt his dream of becoming the regional champion in front of his home fans.

Kizito said: “I have been training for this tournament in the last two months particularly at my base in Paris. There is no doubt that we have a lot of good players from the region but I am confidence that I will be unstoppable.

“We are in for a good tournament and I am sure I can mount the podium when the tournament ends on Sunday November 3, 2019,” he added.

However, Kizito is aware of the quality of the field as he acknowledged the threats from Nigerian and Ghanaian players who are also considered favourites for the top honours here.

His words: “I know that Nigeria and Ghana are top teams but their pedigree cannot intimidate me at home. I am sure that I can make my country proud in this tournament. I look forward to an exciting tournament with support from the home fans. I am ready to do my best and I hope my best will see me through.”

Kizito will be joined in the men’s event by Kouassi Ange. Nadia Kamenan will lead the Ivorien ladies team, which also has Aka Tatiana.

Similarly, Cote d’Ivoire’s National Technical Director, Papa Lamine, believes the Ivorien players are ready to make their country proud.