The heroics of Bode Abiodun against all odds at the 2017 ITTF Challenge Nigeria Open

The heroics of Bode Abiodun against all odds at the 2017 ITTF Challenge Nigeria Open

The Seamaster ITTF Challenge Nigeria Open 2017 has come to an end however, not without a major highlight and news worthy performance from the last man standing in the Nigerian team, Bode Abiodun.

There were several notable upsets like the round of 16 defeat of Olufunke Oshonaike by women’s U21 winner, Piccolin Giorgia (ITA); the defeat of the men’s singles defending champion, Olah Benedek by Szita Marton (HUN) but it was Bode Abiodun’s round of 16 defeat of African champion and world no 29, Aruna Quadri that got everyone talking.

It was on the evening of Day 4 when Aruna Quadri squared up against his compatriot Bode Abiodun on table 1 at the 2017 Nigeria Open. Prior to the game, most people who saw the draws felt fans favorite and the poster boy of table tennis in Africa, Aruna would progress to the quarter-final at the expense of Bode; not knowing that the Portuguese based Nigerian table tennis player had other ideas of his own. The spectators and Aruna fans club who came with a banner displaying their support for the Rio Olympic quarter-finalist were all in fine voice against his compatriot, Bode Abiodun.

Bode started the game like a house on fire as he took the first set by 11-9 but Aruna came back in no time to make the score line one set apiece. Bode then took the third and fourth set to put the score line at 3-1 in his favour as Aruna had it all to do. The fifth set was win or burst for him and win he did! At 3-2, Bode kept his calm in the sixth set to finish off the game and defeat Aruna Quadri by 4 sets to 2 after a thrilling game of table tennis.

While Bode was in the lead and looked like he would defeat Aruna, national team coaches and the spectators told him to lose the game in order to allow Aruna Quadri progress in the competition but he declined and continued with his game. Infact, the Nigerian crowd refused to support him as they didn’t think it was right of him to defeat their champion. The Nigerian national team coaches also didn’t think that if he defeats Aruna, he stood a chance against the big guns in the tournament. This didn’t go down well with Bode as he was visibly angry after the match, refusing to grant any interviews until he was pleaded with and asked to calm down.

During an interview with Bode Abiodun, I told him my questions would surround the circumstances that led to him defeating Aruna Quadri. So I asked: ‘There were rumours yesterday….’ Bode cuts in saying: ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ three times, before allowing me finish my question that there were rumours that he was asked to drop the game and he says: ‘I don’t know anything about this. I don’t know anything about this.’ Make of that what you wish.

Worthy of note is the rumour that national team coaches had to make Bode go through a gruelling qualification exercise to make the Nigerian team for the 2017 Nigeria Open as he played 50 different opponents and defeated them all before he got selected. It should also be remembered that Bode and his doubles partner, Seun had played a doubles match against Aruna Quadri and Omar Assar in which they felt cheated due to counting errors from the umpires and the Nigerian duo refused to grant an interview after the match.

Against all odds, he did go on to cause another upset in the quarter-finals as he defeated Shetty Sanil (IND) who was seeded no 9 for this tournament to progress to the semi-finals. He was however defeated by another Indian, Gandhi Sarthak in the semis 4-3 after coming from 3 sets down to square the game at 3 sets apiece. His progress in the tournament was hindered by a recurrent back injury which kept disturbing him during the game as he had to go for a massage at some point.

Talking after his semi-final match on the game with Aruna he said: ‘Aruna is a good player. I had the opportunity to beat him yesterday and I did. Maybe yesterday was my day to beat Aruna.’

When asked if he thought he would make it to the semi-finals of the tournament at the start of the competition he said: ‘I just want to prove myself because everybody comes here and wants to win, so I tried to focus and play well. I’m so happy I achieved my aim here even though I didn’t win, I am so happy about the performance.’

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