Table tennis in Tunisia has continued to grow in leap and bound and the North African nation has hosted continental tournaments on the ITTF calendar and the man paddling the canoe of the sport – Lotfi Guerfel is optimistic that with the forthcoming African Junior and Cadet Championships (AJC) as well as the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) qualifiers on April 9 to 17, his country is fully ready.
The trained accountant is a man of detail who wants things to be done well and as an optimist he has put together a formidable team to stage major tournaments.
“We are ready to take off with these two tournaments particularly fully ready to make this African Junior championships and Youth Olympic qualifiers a real success. Tunisians love sports and of course table tennis as a popular sport from time immemorial time. We are all proud and honoured to host this big event, from political leaders, to regional officials, media and athletes. All logistics have been put in place and a marketing campaign for this event is ongoing now in Tunisia,” he enthused.
He added: “Planning to be successful makes things happen easily. Our commitment coupled with the idea of working with the spirit of one team in order to host well as best as we can previous and future tournaments are the key to our successes. Tunisia has hosted major ITTF tournaments in the last three years (African Junior and Cadet Championships – Nabeul 2013, Arab Championships 2016, Africa Hopes Week, Tunisia World Junior Circuit 11 editions). We are more experienced in staging this competition and we will continue to raise the bar.”
For Lotfi Guerfel keeping faith with the tournament has been based on cordial relationships with partners. “Two main things to highlight in us keeping faith with the tournament, is that the first is about using efficiently relationships, and the second is to put in place an excellent marketing campaign for the event. Sponsors are more interested in the tournaments organized by the Tunisian Table Tennis Federation, and has helped to increase the income from sponsors for all our tournaments.”
On his expectations for this year, the Tunisia table tennis helmsman said: “We are looking forward to a successful tournament this year and I am sure every team coming will make their wonderful contribution to the success of this event in terms of exhibiting our sport values, discipline, love and respect to one another throughout the competition.”
He however, blamed the slow pace of table tennis in Africa to some factors. “Mainly table tennis seems not to grow as expected in Africa due to lack of resources in terms of poor dedicated budgets, qualified coaches and logistics. But in some countries, table tennis is competing very well with football while I believe more efforts are required to make our sport well known and more popular.”
On whether Tunisia can dwarf the likes of Nigeria, Egypt and Algeria for the title in all the events, he said: “Yes we can and we will continue dreaming about competing worldwide not only in Africa. But anyhow, we’ll do our best.”
He believes the performance of African players has improved the lot of the sport in the continent. “Yes, table tennis is improving lately however, we can do better. Africa is changing rapidly in a very positive way. More efforts are required to promote table tennis in schools, universities, and everywhere within the continent,” Lotfi Guerfel added.