Derek Abrefa announced himself in Africa when he defeated former African champion, Congo Brazzaville’s Saka Suraju 3-1 in Ghana’s 3-1 win over the host of the 2015 African Games during the group matches of the men’s team event. It was this big win that ensured that Ghana medalled at the African Games in Brazzaville.
This singular feat cemented Derek Abrefa’s place in the Ghanaian national team when he was listed alongside Felix Lartey as Ghana’s representatives at the 2016 African Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Khartoum, Sudan. Abrefa and Lartey were finalists at the Ghanaian national championships which was won by Lartey and the two players were considered for the Sudan tournament. However, they failed to pick one of the two slots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
However, Derek Abrefa was given the sponsorship of any African country by his sponsors and without much ado, the 24-year-old decided to settle for Lagos, Nigeria for his 32-day training tour.
With support from the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), Derek Abrefa trained regularly at the Nigeria National Training Centre of the National Stadium in Lagos and he was chance to play with various Nigerian players and this trip paid off the for the Ghana Immigration Service officer who returned to Accra, the capital of Ghana to emerge as the new Ghanaian national champion.
The Ghana national tournament which took place at the West Hills Mall on Saturday December 17, 2016, with the players displaying quality performance with high standard and participation of all the best players in Ghana.
Before reaching the final, Derek Abrefa who won a province competition at the Edo State Open event in Nigeria beat Fred Twumasi and Enoch Otu to qualify from the group stage and advance to the second round to meet national U-18 champion, Emmanuel Ofori whom he beat 4-1 at the quarterfinal.
Abrefa met his old rival, Felix Latey in the semi-final and demolished the former champion 4-0, before facing teammate Emmanuel Commey in the final. It was a tough battle from the start of the final match, but Derek Abrefa combined his experience with what he picked from his training tour in Nigeria to silent his opponent 4-2 which fetched him the star prizes from the sponsors, West Hills Mall, Infinix phone, Compu-Ghana Ltd, and Chicken-Inn.
For his feat, Derek Abrefa became a proud owner of a 42 inches Samsung Flat Screen TV and an Infinix Zero 4 (Note) mobile phone.
Derek who recently got an education scholarship to study at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana said his trip to Nigeria was a worthwhile experience.
“Having played against some Nigerian players, it was not a tough decision for me to choose Nigeria particularly Lagos as the location of my training tour. In Lagos, table tennis is second to none because the players train very well and one thing that made Nigerian players stronger was their determination and never-say-die spirit. I noticed that even the junior players were not afraid of the senior players and they played with a lot of confidence and determination. I picked these qualities and also my footwork has really improved while training in Lagos. I must also admit that my trip to Nigeria aided my good performance in the Ghana National Open Championship,” he admitted.
Derek Abrefa said that table tennis has continued to grow in Ghana following their performance at the 2015 African Games in Brazzaville. “At present the state of table tennis has moved from a nowhere to a higher level in Ghana. Since our new president was elected, he has been working hard and bringing a lot of sponsors to the game which is now helping us and encouraging us. Currently we have series of tournament going on in Ghana and I am happy for the good work our association has been doing for table tennis. After our bronze medal in Brazzaville, there has been a big change in table tennis. Since then our association has also worked so hard to push us to the very top and this has encouraged the younger ones.”
He blamed the inability of the Ghanaian team to attend major competition on the lack of support from the government. “We do not attend competitions very often because the government doesn’t give much attention to the game apart from soccer. We are hoping to see some changes in 2017 since they have realised Ghana has something big to boast of in sports like table tennis.”
As the Ghanaian national champion, Derek Abrefa has a lot of dreams. “Being Ghana’s No.1 and top seed is too small for me as compared to what I want to achieve in table tennis. Gaining a scholarship to study in the University of Cape Coast to read Psychology and Foundation of Education has also boosted my moral and has encouraged me to train harder to become one of the few intellectuals who is performing good in the aspect of sports worldwide. , As a player my plan is to train hard to do exploit, to attract sponsors to support me since sponsorship in Ghana has been one of the major problems that prevent Ghanaian sports athletes from reaching their goals. My plan is to secure myself a club in Asia or Europe to enable me get the exposure to reach my target.”
On the future of table tennis in Ghana, he said: “Despite the challenges we encountering in our country when it comes to low support to less financed sports, table tennis in Ghana has a bright future and in the shortest time with the seriousness of my other colleagues and the sacrifice of our GTTA executives, Ghana will become one of the best table tennis countries in the world despite the corner in which we are coming from.”
Derek Abrefa would remain grateful to numerous people who have supported his dream. “As far as I am concerned and with my effort and training, I believe my table tennis career has just started and will never end until I achieve all I want to achieve. All this would not have been possible without the support of ASKY Airlines, Stanbic Bank Ghana Ltd, Graphic Corporation, Sun Seekers Tour, Goil Ghana Ltd, Divine Travel & Tour for supporting Ghana Table Tennis throughout the year. I didn’t come this far with my effort alone. I therefore want to thank Mar. Mawuko Afadzinu (President GTTA); Byron White (USA Table Tennis), Mr. Charles Tachie-Manson (Manager of Tesano TT club), Daniel Apark (Director of Sport, University of Cape Coast); Mr. Eliot Agyare (President Ghana Publishers Association),my Coach Ebenezer Anang white, Mr. William Asare (Motivator & Advisor) for personally supporting me throughout the year to come this far in the international scene and be recognised as one of the best players on the continent. I will continue to train harder to lift table tennis in Ghana internationally.”