Since the exit of the likes of Emmanuel Quaye and Ethel Jacks from the stage, the fortune of Ghana in table tennis has plummeted but in the last three years, Derek Abrefa has been working hard to restore the good old says to the former Gold Coast nation.

Recollecting what it used to be in the 1970s for Ghana, Derek Abrefa said: “The likes of Emmanuel Quaye and Ethel Jacks won many laurels for Ghana and we were the toast of Africa. Unfortunately after the demise of India merchant, D G Hathiramani, who used the fund the sport, the game did not continue to improve but rather lost steam. The passion for the game died as funds for player development and talent hunt were no longer available.”

However, a hopeful Derek Abrefa said: “With the coming into office of the Mawuko Afadzinu to head the Ghana Table Tennis Association, things have changed for the better and we even won bronze medal at the 2015 African Games in Congo Brazzaville in 2015. We have a national league that happens every year and there are also open championships. Now clear cut policies are being developed to ensure that there is succession program to be followed from U-12 through cadet right to the seniors. We now have more committed players and administrative staff who are ready to work hand-in-hand to make sure that Ghana regains her lost glory.”

Flaunting his records, the Ghana number one star player said: “I had a very good season in the national league, and also won two national open championships, and the National University Games. I also received a scholarship from Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC), which boosted my training regimen. I’m in top form for the ITTF Africa top 16 Cup and I’m also mapping out a strategy for my potential opponents.”

With his inability not to make it beyond the group stage at his last appearance in the tournament, Derek Abrefa said: “I’m much prepared this year having played in more tournaments. I’m looking forward to getting into the medal zone. It has always been my dream to climb the podium and receive a medal. This is the top 16, which has the best players on the continent. It will be a difficult hurdle to climb but I’ll do my best. I’m hoping to have a very good tournament as I will test my arsenals against the best of the best to see how prepared I am for the 2018 Commonwealth Games”

On the continued dominance of Aruna Quadri (NGR) and Omar Assar (EGY), the Ghanaian star said: “We are blessed to have these two magnificent players in the top 30 of the world ranking. I always look up to them as I aim to be a better player. They are blessed to have more international exposure and play with different players who exhibit different styles and skills. It will be difficult to topple them now because they always play with the best in the world all the time and this has improved their game.”

Derek Abrefa is particularly excited about the rise of table tennis in Africa. “Table tennis in Africa is gradually gaining weight after losing grounds for a couple of years. The game has had some financial support from sponsors, so there are more tournaments and viewership is improving and more Africans are getting a chance to play in international competitions. I believe it will continue to get better.”