After the successful staging of the African Senior’s Championships in Cairo early this year, the best table tennis players in Africa will once again converge in Yaoundé, Cameroon for the 2015 African Cup.

After organising the 2010 edition of the African Senior Championship, Yaoundé will welcome teams from the continental qualifiers for the ITTF Men’s and Women’s World Cup.

However, President, Cameroon Table Tennis Federation (CTTF), Alfred Bagueka Assobo, believes the participants would have a swell time in the West African region come July.

“We organised the Senior African Championships in November 2010 and we have got a certain experience. Since then, we’ve been organising the annual Sonara International Tournament and our experience in that domain has been strengthened. So concerning the next African Cup, we’re almost ready. We just need to make sure all the details are taken into consideration.

The venue will be the multipurpose sport complex, a very modern gymnasium, located downtown Yaoundé which was used in 2010 for the African Senior Championships. For the tournament, we are expecting 70 players from almost 15 countries,” he said.

As a passionate table tennis fan, Alfred Bagueka Assobo predicts a tough tournament.

The players have had the opportunity since the beginning of the year 2015 to attend big events like, African Championships in Cairo last January, Lagos Open in March and the World Championships in Suzhou in China recently. They’re also preparing for the All Africa Games planned for next September in Brazzaville. We can imagine that given that context, all of them will fight very hard to have good results which will help them to go to Brazzaville with more confidence. And not forgetting that the winners will represent Africa at the ITTF World Cups. So the competition will be a very keenly-contested one,” he said.

As a realist, the CTTA boss believes Nigeria, Egypt and Congo Brazzaville are favoured to dominate the tournament.

He said: “Egypt, Nigeria and Congo Brazzaville are the strong contenders for the teams. But in individual event, the contenders in the female are Egypt’s Dina Meshref and Nadeen El-Dawlatly, Congo Brazzaville’s Han Xing, Nigeria’s Funke Oshonaike and Edem Offiong as well as home-girl, Sarah Hanffou. In the men category, we have top players like Egypt’s Omar Assar and El-Sayed Lashin, Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri and Segun Toriola as well as Congo Brazzaville’s Saka Suraju.”

He however, attributed to the dominance of Nigeria and Egypt to the table tennis tradition that had existed in these two nations. “First of all, Egypt and Nigeria countries have a very long tradition of table tennis. Just an example, the Cameroon Table Tennis Federation (CTTF) was founded in 1974, whereas the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) was created in the early fifties. They know that in sports, a medal is a medal, be it athletics, boxing, table tennis or football. They have a large number of qualified coaches and the players have more international exposure,” he said.

The CTTF helmsman says Paris-based Sarah Hanffou has been an inspiration to young players in Cameroun, while admitting that they would be hoping for her to re-enact the feat that saw her winning the championship in 2010.

His words: “Sarah Hanffou won the African Championships in 2010. She represented Cameroon at the 2012 London. We are proud of her and she is a role model for the younger players and a source of inspiration and motivation for them. Of course, given her experience, she is our best hope.”

“Concerning the efforts we are putting in place to produce other good players, a national detection programme of very young talented players was launched recently by the Government for eight sports and table tennis was selected among the eight sports. Every year, we organise many competitions among them are national teams championships for the veterans, seniors, juniors and even cadets. The Chinese Ambassador Cup is organised annually since 2008. Table tennis is one the sports included in the national sports festival called “Dixiades”, in the national universities games, in the national secondary school games and in the national primaries school games. With the assistance of Ping Sang Frontieres, a France-based Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) founded by Sarah Hanffou, we are taking table tennis to primary schools by donating tables, rackets and balls. Also, ITFF has also been very supportive and Cameroun has been benefiting from it education and training programmes. Since 2011, we have been sending some of older players to China annually to attend coaching course,” he added.

On the support from ATTF and ITTF, he said: “As the host federation of the African Cup, we will receive from ITTF and ITTF-AFRICA equipment and materials like tables, nets, scorers, balls, surrounds and floors. A training camp will be organised by ITTF in Cameroon as well.”