Quadri Aruna: Nigeria's TT Federation not effective

Nigeria's poster boy of table tennis speaks about how his life changed post the 2016 Rio Olympics.

"It was one of the best moments of my career,” said Quadri Aruna on his performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics.   -  K. Pichumani

He is Nigeria’s poster boy of table tennis. Especially after the historic quarterfinal finish at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games,  where he defeated former World No.1 Timo Boll of Germany in the fourth round before losing to the eventual champion Ma Long in the last eight clash--he became the first paddler from Africa to enter the  quarters in the history of the Games.

“It was one of the best moments of my career,” he said in an interview to Sportstar here on Monday. “Nobody expected something like that. It all happened due  to my hard work and luck played a part. I firmly believe that there are going to  be better days.”

Rio Olympics, according to Quadri Aruna, has  changed his life for the better. “I’ve made some friends and fans. [It is] one  of the best things [to happen] in my life. I am not as popular as the President  of the country! [Certainly] not as popular as the footballers. [But] on my own,  I am some kind of a household name.”

The 28-year-old, who is ranked 29 in the world, however, appeared concerned  about his country’s preparations for the 2018 Commonwealth Games to be held in  Gold Coast. The 2014 ITTF ‘Star Player of the year’ said that Nigeria’s TT Federation and the Government are not doing enough to promote the sport.

“The Federation has lost a lot of sponsors. The Government is taking care of football  and it is not brining [any] inspiration. Preparations have not started. The  focus has been on athletics, wrestling, weightlifting. If we can start early, it  will be better. But the Government is not pumping in any money.”

On the other hand, India is doing all the right things for CWG, he said.  “India will have a upperhand  [at CWG]. They are prepared but it will not be easy for them, too,” he  opined.
Playing in two leagues in France and Portugal simultaneously for the last  two years has helped the Nigerian’s mental strength. “It has improved my mental stability as French league is quite  tough. But I will eventually settle down in Portugal as my second home.”

On the personal front, Quadri Aruna was the youngest of seven siblings and had a tough upbringing in a  farming village in Oyo State. “It [life] was never easy. I am happy to be married to a wife who  is also a table tennis player. [It] makes things easier for me to engage in sporting activity,” he said.

According to Quadri Aruna, who plays for Oilmax-Stag Yoddhas in Ultimate Table Tennis said the league is certainly going to  be a lot of fun and the younger generation of Indians will take up the sport watching their favourite stars play. “It will [definitely] motivate them,” he said.