Rilwan Akanbi, Fatimo Bello emerge as NTTF champions


Rilwan Akanbi of Atinuke Table Tennis club of Lagos and Fatimo Bello of G20 club have emerged the champions of the 2021 Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) National Championships that took place at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.

Akanbi defeated junior International, Taiwo Mati 4-3 (7-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9). Mati won the first two sets but Rilwan rallied and came back from two sets down to win the third, fourth and fifth sets. Mati came back to take the sixth game but Rilwan finally triumphed in the seventh set with a 11-9 win.

In the semi-final, Mati defeated David Fayemi 4-0 (11-8, 14-12, 11-4, 11-5) while Akanbi defeated Azeez Solanke 4-2 (3-11, 11-9, 11-8, 5-11, 11-9, 11-9) to seal a place in the final.

Fatimo Bello emerged the winner of the Women’s singles champion after defeating Bose Odusanya 4-1 (15-13, 11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 11-1). The Edo 2020 National Sports Festival champion won the first two sets, while the hope of winning the game rose for Odusanya when she won the third set but Bello sealed the victory with wins in the fourth and fifth sets.

On their way to the final, Bello defeated Aminat Fashola 4-0 (11-4, 11-8, 11-9, 11-5) in the semi final while Odusanya defeated Esther Oribamise in a dramatic 4-3 win (10-12, 11-8, 11-5, 7-11, 11-6,13-15, 15-13).

Reacting after the victory, Akanbi told PREMIUM TIMES that he didn’t know he could win the tournament.

According to him, “I’m so excited and very happy to win the tournament because I never believed I could win although I trained for it even during the Ramadan period, I trained very hard, when I was down in the game, I had to tell myself to play my best.

L-R Taiwo Mati, Rilwan Akanbi, Azeez Solanke
L-R Taiwo Mati, Rilwan Akanbi, Azeez Solanke [Photos by Hassan Abdulsalam]

“Even if I lose, I told myself to continue to attack him because the last time we played I attacked him from the beginning to the end and I won.”

Mati revealed that Rilwan defeated him because he changed his tactics. “Actually I was leading with two sets but he changed his tactics and I couldn’t get him and before I could counter the change; it was too late for me and I lost although it’s not an easy but he played very well,” he said.

The women’s champion, Fatimo Bello, disclosed she had to learn new tricks to get through. “I had lost to her 3-1 in the team’s event, so I had to talk to my coach to teach me some tricks to defeat her.”

Meanwhile, in the Cadet singles; 15-year-old Samuel Boboye of Bayelsa defeated Matthew Kuti of Lagos 3-0 (12-10, 11-3, 11-9) to emerge the men’s singles winner while 13-year-old Hope Udoaka of Cross Rivers defeated Aishat Rabiu of Lagos 3-1 (12-10, 11-2, 10-12, 11-4) to claim the gold medal of the women’s singles.

Reacting to the victory, Boboye disclosed that his exposure helped him and he will be looking forward to more of this competition. “I feel happy right now,” Boboye revealed. “I don’t even know what to say right now, but my exposure at previous tournaments gave me the victory, especially the one at the National Sports Festival in Edo. I have the confidence to beat him, I was not intimidated by the Lagos fans,” Boboye added.

TEXEM

Earlier, Taiwo Mati of Ondo State and Bukola Ajayi of G20 had won Gold in U-21 men’s and women’s singles. Team Ondo and G20 won the team events in the men’s and women’s category respectively while the duo of Oribamise Esther and Azeez Solanke won the mixed doubles.

The winners in the men and women’s singles events earned N250,000 each, while U-21 and cadet champions took home N100,000 and N50,000 respectively.

Winners in team and doubles events got N200,000 and N100,000 respectively, with quarter-finalists in each event earning a minimum of N50,000 each.

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