He's been to Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Lagos and countries in and around Africa but the Indian experience surely has left more than a lasting impression on 12-year-old Hammed Osibanjo from Nigeria "It's been my first trip outside the continent and I have already made up my mind that I want to come to India again. I hope the two federations get together and ensure we get more chances to come here."
Playing in the boys singles of the cadet category at the ongoing 2013 India Junior and Cadet Open held at the NSCI, Worli, the lad from Oyo States, Nigeria has made the most of whatever little he could get at his disposal, "Things are improving, the quality is making rapid strides, but it's not an individual effort but the contribution of state and government officials that has led to me being given the chance to prove myself in a tournament outside Africa. Competitions in Nigeria help me improve because I know the best part of my playing career is yet to come. There are incentives in the form of kits, equipment which makes the determination to win even stronger. What more encouragement could one ask for?"
"My family and coach have always given me the support, that was always there. But I wouldn't have been here without the support and encouragement of the chairman of the Nigeria TT federation, Ye Wayeed Oshodi and the secretary and other officials because there was a time I wanted to quit playing table tennis to study. But they showed me the way and told me how sports and education can go hand in hand and when I look back at the decision to continue, I know it was one of the best decisions ever made." says the 12-year-old who was sponsored entirely by the Nigerian table tennis federation for this tournament.
Football like Cricket in India, is a religion in Nigeria and it's not surprise that football is Hammed's second favourite sport, "People call me Drogba because I'm a die-hard Chelsea fan. The man is God for the people of Africa and he's been such a huge inspiration for youngsters in the continent. We couldn't have asked for a better role model." says Hammed who shares a passion for numbers and wants to pursue economics when he grows up.
Alarape Isiaka has coached Hammed for the past 5 years and is impressed about the rapid strides Hammed has made, "Everyone in his school and locality know who Hammed is. I feel proud as a coach when kids come up to him saying they want to be like him. Despite spending just three days a week in practice, it's Hammed's ability and desire to make every day count that sets him apart from the rest. With football being the dominant sport in the country, other sports needs such encouragement and platforms to showcase our talent. Nigerian sport is slowly making it's presence felt at the global stage and hopefully we'll get to see more Hammed's in the years to come. You see that with cricket and other sports here, it's the same with football back home."