Egypt’s duo of Omar Assar and Dina Meshref were crowned champions of the 2019 ITTF Africa Cup concluded on Monday August 5, 2019, at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos, thus qualifying for the ITTF World Cup later this year.
Assar, who was the tournament’s no.3 seed, accounted for the host nation favourite, Aruna Quadri, the top seed 4-1 (11-6, 11-8, 8-11, 11-7, 11-3) in the semifinal and while he had to work hard to overcome compatriot – Ahmed Saleh, the no.2 seed 4-3 (10-12, 11-3, 11-6, 12-14, 11-3, 9-11, 11-3), the winner as far back as 1997 when the second edition of the tournament was staged in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Quadri had to settle for third place after beating Algeria’s Sami Kherouf, the no.8 seed 3-0 (11-6, 12-10, 11-5) in the third place play-off. In similar fashion, Offiong Edem gained third place accounting for Fadwa Garci of Tunisia in five games 4-1 (8-11, 11-8, 11-13, 11-7, 11-8).
It was according to status for Meshref in the women’s singles, as the top seed had in the semi-final stage beat Nigeria’s Offiong Edem, the no.2 seed, 4-1 (11-5, 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 11-8.
With a place in the final booked, it was a family affair as Meshref beat her cousin, Yousra Helmy, the no.4 seed 4-0 (11-9, 11-9, 11-1, 11-8) to retain her title.
Gold and Silver for Egypt, personal triumphs for Assar and Meshref; it is the third time Omar Assar has won the title, for Meshref and incredible seventh. Moreover, it is six in a row.
Most significantly, in Chengdu, Omar Assar will be making his third appearance in the Men’s World Cup, he previously appeared in 2015 in Halmstad in 2017 in Liège; for Dina Meshref it will be no less than her seventh venture in the Women’s World Cup. She made her debut in 2011 in Singapore, since 2014 in Linz, she has been ever present.
On representing Africa at the World’s stage and making a statement on behalf of the continent Assar said: “I’m happy to have qualified for the World Cup and I hope my friend Aruna Quadri will qualify based on his ranking. I’ll continue to train hard and prepare with my club in Germany and hope to be ready for the World Cup.”
When asked about her dominance in Africa and the inability of other players to step up and put her on her toes “It’s not so as the games haven’t been particularly easy. The games and players have been tough,” Dina recounted.
The Women’s World Cup will be staged in China from Friday 18th to Sunday 20th October, while the Men’s World Cup from Friday 29th November to Sunday 1st December.