When Azeez Solanke made his debut at the ITTF African Junior Championships in 2016, he was not considered the arrowhead of the Nigerian team. But his impressive performance finally singled him out when he waded off competition from the Egyptians to make it to the semifinal round of the boys’ singles.
Again, the 15-year-old has selected as one of the players that will fly Nigeria’s flag at this year’s tournament in Tunis come April 9 to 15 and the youngster is eager to rock the boat with the Egyptian soldiers in all the events.
“I think attending more competitions in 2016 has helped my confidence because I have seen top players compete at the big stage while I have also discovered my mistakes as well. So in Tunisia, I am going there to make a name for myself and my country because it is a rare privilege to be considered to represent Nigeria despite the enormous talents in the country,” he said.
Azeez Solanke who was champion of the Olufunke Oshonaike Top 16 Championships for junior players in Nigeria believes the training he had under Segun Toriola and Olufunke Oshonaike has added to his skills.
“In the last one year, I have been privileged to be trained by two of Africa’s great players – Segun Toriola and Olufunke Oshonaike. I noticed that their kind of training was unique because they trained us with the modern style and this has impacted on me and it has helped me to win a state championship in Nigeria. There is no doubt that the coaching under these two legends has really helped us a lot in Nigeria and we are looking forward to more of this in future,” he said.
Azeez Solanke describes Egypt’s Yousef Abdel-Aziz as the only player that can stand between him and the boys singles title in Tunis. “I had played against some of the junior Egyptian players and I just discovered that it is only Germany-based Yousef Abdel-Aziz that has beaten me several times but after watching him at the last World Junior Championship in South Africa, I discovered that what gave him an edge over us is exposure. I am particularly prepared to wrestle the title from him. All other players in the Egyptian team have suffered defeats in my hand,” he boasted.
“I am aiming to do better than what I did in 2016 when I get to Tunis. I have been monitoring players from Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt and I noticed that they have been playing Junior Open across the globe while we are really training well in Lagos. As usual, we will try our best and hope for the best result in Tunis. I cannot wait to get to Tunisia for the championship,” Azeez Solanke said.