Hundreds of athletes will today converge on the Teslim Balogun Stadium as Rilwan Akanbi and Bose Odusanya begin their title defence in the singles event of the 49th Asoju Oba Molade Okoya-Thomas Table Tennis Cup.
Akanbi, a member of the national junior team to the 2016 ITTF World Junior Championships held in South Africa will be hoping to retain the title again this year amidst the array of stars competing at the five-day tournament.
Like Akanbi, Odusanya whose performance is yet to earn her a call-up to the national team and she has not convince the technical department of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) to be invited to the national camp.
Fatimo Bello, 2016 runnerâ€™s up and veteran Tolu Durosimi-Etti will also be gunning for the title being former champions of the competition.
For the family of the late business mogul, this yearâ€™s tournament would serve as a prelude to the elaborate 50th anniversary of the tournament which started in 1968.
According to Ayodeji Okoya-Thomas, this yearâ€™s marked the third edition of the tournament after the death of their father, while the family expressed appreciation to the Lagos State Government for their unflinching support to the tournament since its inception in 1968..
â€œThis is of course will the third after 46 years that is not being addressed by the initiator and sole sponsor of the tournament, Sir Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas. One of his greatest wishes while alive was that the family should continue the sponsorship of the tournament after his demise, we should therefore like to give God all the glory for giving us the ability to continue this noble legacy for the third year running since he was called to glory,â€ Okoya-Thomas said.
22 titles will be competed in the cadet, junior and senior categories while the para events will also be part of this yearâ€™s edition.
As the longest running competition in Nigeria, the annual Asoju Oba Cup which started in 1968 has produced majority of top players for Nigeria including Atanda Musa and Late Yomi Bankole.
The most successful player in the tournament, Oladele Sumbo aka Malawi commended the family for keeping faith with the tournament while urging young players in the state to hone their skills through the tournament.