There are controversies in almost every sport, when the issue of WHO IS THE BEST in that particular sport is brought up. Opinions are generally divided as to what yardstick to use. There seem to be a revival of Table tennis in Nigeria especially at the international arena where Aruna Quadri has risen to an highest world ranking ever by a Nigerian and indeed any African.
So if you ask table-tennis fans in Nigeria about who they think is the best ever player,opinion will surely differ. Aruna Quadri has taken Nigerian table tennis to a new height and the discussing has arisen, is he better than Atanda Musa?Is he the greatest Nigerian table tennis player ever? This piece is out to dissect their individual achievements and their overall influence on the game,both locally and internationally.
On the African setting both players have done the Nation proud. They have been ranked Africa’s best player severally and Aruna is currently Africa’s number one table tennis player.
Its crystal clear, Aruna head and shoulder above all other African players active or retire. Atanda Musa’s highest ranking in the world of table tennis was NO. 40, achieved far back as 1981 funny but true,before Aruna landed on mother earth.Aruna is currently ranked world No.29,though he achieved the highest ranking ever by an African between September 2016 to January 2017 when he was ranked No.25.
Some have said that the quality of players on the circuit today cant be compared to the players of the early 80s. That being said rankings remains the major tool ITTFWORLD uses to evaluate players performance.
Both players have enjoyed Olympics Games successes;
Atanda Musa Seoul 1988 -Group Format
1988 in Seoul when groups of eight players were the order of the day in the first stage, Atanda Musa overcame Croatia’s Zoran Primorac.Zoran eventually won silver at the same olympics and was one of the highest ranked table tennis players around then. Zoran Primorac was the first table player alongside Belgian Jean-Michel Saive, and Swede Jörgen Persson to have competed at seven Olympics, having competed in all Games since the sport was introduced in 1988 (A feat equaled by Nigeria’s Segun Toriola at the RIO olympics in 2016).Before he retired Primorac had the career highest ranking of World No.2 table tennis players.
Aruna Quadri –Knockout format
Aruna represented Nigeria at the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2016 Summer Olympics, reaching the quarter-finals in the latter competition. At the 2016 summer Olympics in Brazil Aruna defeated Timo BOLL- a Top 8 ranked player in the world at that time.Timo holds the record of being the FIRST German number one of the World table tennis rankings. So it was a great feat. Aruna remains the only African to reach the last 8 (quarter-finals) at the Olympics.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP/WORLD CUP ETC
At the 1981 World Championships in Novi Sad he defeated Frenchman, Jacques Secretin (Secretin was a Multiple European Champion)in the opening round.
Atanda Musa excelled at the Men’s World Cup. In 1984 he accounted for Sweden’s Erik Lindh, in 1985 he put an aspiring young Swede firmly in his place. He beat a certain Jan-Ove Waldner (the Mozart himself) and repeated the feat in the same year at the United States Open. One year later, again on Men’s World Cup duty, he accounted for Croatia’s Dragutin Surbek, in those days representing Yugoslavia.
At the World Cup 2014,Quadri beat higher ranked players and he consequently reached the quarter finals in the Men’s Singles competition (the first ever African player to achieved such feat).Recently he lost a a tightly fought semi-final match 4-3 to world No.4 Germany’s Dmitriy Ovtcharov at the Bulgaria Open.Aruna Quadri thus finished in the top four at the ITTF’s second most prestigious tournament held in Bulgaria. A first by any African.
Aruna won the 2017 Polish open in Czestochowa, becoming the first Nigerian competitor to win a Men’s Singles title at an ITTF Challenge Series event.
The intense rivalry between Atanda Musa and Yomi Bankole made the fans of table tennis in Nigeria to be divided. Most of the elite supporters and administrators looked in the direction of Atanda Musa because they believe he was better behaved,humble,classy and skillful as well but the mainstream fans, grassroot fans believed that Yomi was one of them, infact he was theirs. So “area fans” stood solidly behind Yomi against what they termed cheating and “mischief” by the administrators.
There was serious bad blood between the two superstars.. Yomi was often seen as the victim who is fighting for justice in the table tennis family, he was never intimidated he bore his mind every time and everywhere.On many occasion his actions and inactions didn’t go down well with the powers that be in the table tennis circuit. In those days there were a lot of home tournament and their rivalry was so fierce that each tournament they competed in they were expected to meet in the final.
The Asoju oba cup was already a “melting point” for Nigeria ping pongers, the edition that had a Saloon Car as the Star Prize was so keenly contested that when a winner emerged in Musa it further widened the gulf and enmity between the duo.
Today Aruna is the best followed and supported Nigeria table tennis star around .This was evidence at the just concluded Lagos classics – Seamasters ITTF table tennis championship -Nigeria open where the Aruna fans club held sway,shouting,blowing horns dressed in an official club membership regalia, had banner on the terraces. He enjoyed unequaled support. Aruna’s support base cuts across the administrators, players and indeed grass-root fans(combined Musa and Yomi’s fans) who daily sing his praise during his matches.
Musa won more local tournament compared to Aruna , because in Musa’s time Table tennis was second only to football and the popularity of the sports knew no bounds. Tournaments like the Asoju oba, Oluyole open etc took centre stage, presently there is serious dearth of local competition to help the development of the players and the growth of the game.
ARUNA VS MUSA !!!
If they were in the same era, Aruna vs Musa would have been a must watch any day.Who would have won ? Based on skill set,composure and intelligence we believe Musa edges it, so the outcome of their matches would have been close and their head to head should look like 20-18 in favour of Musa.
Finally,it is clear that Aruna continued from where Musa stopped,he has taken the African game and players impact to another level and carried the nations flag to levels to other players had before him.
To set the record straight Musa was very influential in making tennis a household sports in Nigeria and he is the first name in table tennis that cuts across the elderly and the younger generation of his time. ‘
Aruna on his own part has given Nigeria a world wide appeal when it comes to table tennis, he has brought more laurels and recognition to Nigeria Table tennis than others before him.
ARUNA EDGES MANSA MUSA IN GREATNESS and we at Sportsdiscourse believe Aruna is perhaps the biggest table tennis export from Nigeria to the world and indeed its biggest brand ever.Musa might be a better ping-ponger in terms of skills but in terms of accolades and greatness Aruna is head and shoulder above Musa.