Federation (NTTF), Engr. Tikon Ishaku has reacted to claims by Nigeria’s most decorated female table tennis player, Olufunke Oshonaike that the federation didn’t take good care of the Nigerian players at the just concluded ITTF Challenge Nigeria Open in Lagos.
Speaking to a Lagos based Sports radio station this morning she said: ‘It’s worrisome when Nigeria hosts an ITTF event and our players had to provide accommodation for themselves. Nigeria did not really treat me well at the Open. I had to do a lot of things on my own regarding welfare. I was dealing with the trauma in the event and personal issues on the day I lost in the singles.’
Reacting to this in a phone conversation, the new NTTF President said: ‘It is very unfair for Funke to complain because this tournament is an opportunity that the federation has brought to Nigerian players to partake and improve on their rankings.’
‘This is not a Nigerian competition. It is not a competition the Nigerian government wanted Nigerian players to participate in. Were we supposed to camp players, put them in a very conducive environment, give them incentive, give them allowances, buy their ticket for them to go and participate, NO!’ he said.
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‘It is just a partnership where the ITTF was able to bring this tournament to Nigeria for our players here to participate and compete with other players in the world. So we are supposed to be commended and not subjected to this. It is not fair,’ he concluded.
He also noted that every Nigerian player home or abroad is a Nigerian player and that Funke was not the only one who flew in for the tournament as the likes of Aruna Quadri, Bode Abiodun, Omotayo Olajide etc also came in from other countries. He said that when the NTTF is invited for competitions, the federation would put forward requests to the nation to help with camping and all that but that this was purely an ITTF event.
When asked who took care of the welfare and bills of the foreign players he did have a lot to say. ‘When the tournament was announced worldwide, it was done in the name of the ITTF not the NTTF. Players all over the world would make an entry or indicate their participation through filling of forms through their various federations. So there is a particular amount each player is required to pay make an entry into the tournament. This entry takes care of subsidising the accommodation in the destination country e.g if Peninsula hotel is maybe $300 per day, because the player is coming through this platform they will be required to pay $100, $90 or $80. So your entry includes your coming in to stay in a hotel, the food you eat and all that.’
He added that ‘Each of the 75 Nigerian players (including Funke) that participated in the tournament were required to pay an entry fee of €103-104 but the NTTF waved the entry fee as an incentive to the players and to encourage their participation in large numbers. The foreign players (including those from neighbouring African countries) however had to make this entry payment before coming to the tournament as the fees went to the ITTF and not the NTTF.’
On the foreign players he also said that most of them were sponsored by the clubs they play for or they had other sponsors. ‘So if a player wins the trophy and the $5,000 cash prize, you will take it back to your sponsors and present it to them or they will tell you to keep it just to encourage you. But you have a mandate to return to them to brief them about your outing because they sponsored you to go.’
To buttress his point he revealed that he owns a table tennis club which is called G20 club and that the members of his club stayed in Lagos throughout the tournament as he catered for them from his own pocket as the club Chairman. In all, he called for understanding of how these things work for proper enlightenment on such issues.