Aruna Quadri and Bode Abiodun are edging closer to becoming the first Africans to play in the semifinal stage of the lucrative European Table Tennis Union (ETTU)-organised Champions League after Portugal’s Sporting Club defeated French champion, Stella Sport La Romagne, 3-1 in the first leg of the quarterfinal tie.With Quadri playing a crucial role in the victory, Sporting as the first Portuguese team to feature and make it to the quarterfinal of the Champions League is one match away from making history in Europe.
With Abiodun sitting out during the encounter, it was Quadri that sealed the win for the Portuguese team in the epic encounter played at the weekend in Lisbon, Portugal.
Inspired by the presence of their fans coupled with the inspiration from Captain Joao Monteiro, Sporting played their heart out to daze the star-studded French champion.
Relying on the trio of Monteiro, Quadri and Diogo Carvalho that ensured their qualification to the last eight, the French team has in their fold two Chinese stars – Shihao Wei and CHEN Tian Yuan as well as Frenchman Brice OLIVIER.
As a key player for Sporting, Quadri started the encounter against southpaw Shihao Wei. But a narrow loss to the Chinese gave the visitors a 1-0 lead after Quadri lost 3-1 to Wei in the first match.
Captain Monteiro restored parity with a convincing 3-1 (11:7, 11:8, 8:11, 11:8) win over CHEN Tian Yuan.
Buoyed by Monteiro’s win, Diogo Carvalho played with his heart as the venue was thrown into frenzy with another 3-1 (11:4, 11:8, 6:11, 11:9) win over Brice OLLIVIER to give Sporting, a 2-1 lead.
The hope of the Lisbon was now on Quadri in the fourth match and motivated by the victories of his comrades, the Nigerian made nonsense of Chen Tian Yuan with a 3-0 (14:12, 11:9, 11:7) rout of the Chinese to the admiration of the home fans.
The second leg of the quarterfinal tie holds in France on February 9, in the home of Stella Sport La Romagne.
An elated Quadri described the victory as a result of team work. “I think the support we have been given ourselves in every match has been our advantage particularly the pep talk from Captain Monteiro has been very inspiring. When I lost the first match, I was really down but when Monteiro and Diogo won their matches, I was really motivated that I can also do what they have done.