This weekend saw the best in the west battle to join the continental elite. The west, in this case, refers to West Africa, where players from 11 countries converged in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). There, 18 women and 21 men competed in the first-ever ITTF Western Africa Challenge, a qualification tournament for the 2020 Africa Top 16 Cup. The venue was the Salle Polyvalente du Parc des Sports de Treichville, which seats 3,500. Notably present among the many supporters were the Elephants of Côte d’Ivoire, the boosters for the national football team, who livened up the proceedings with song and dance. On the tables, however, it was all business. The women's singles title was claimed by Fatimo Bello, visiting from continental powerhouse Nigeria. In the final, she came back from 0-2 down against her compatriot Esther Oribamise. "It was not easy at all because I had to come from behind to win the encounter," said Bello "I am very happy and grateful to the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation for the opportunity to represent my country. I must also acknowledge the support from the city of Abidjan. It is my first time in this lovely country and I look forward to returning." The host nation's Oba Kizito Oba (pictured) claimed the men's singles title, besting top-seeded Monday Oladele Olabayi of Benin. "I am so happy that I made my people proud with this win as I was really determined to become champion," said Oba. "It was a bit easy in the final but the quarter-final win has boosted my confidence that I can win the tournament." With the wins, Oba and Bello are poised to join Africa's elite at the 2020 Africa Top 16 Cup, to be held in Tunisia. One hopes that the ebullient Elephants can make the journey as well.
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