Two of the greatest table tennis player that Africa has seen in the last decade, Aruna Quadri and Omar Assar who have dominated both on the continental and European level are living strides of African talents, while been opponents on court, they both share unflinching love for each other as the bond waxes stronger as they grow.
Their names is like wildfire when it comes to Africa table tennis and the pair happen to be the current top two African men’s singles players, and also the only men from the continent to have reached the quarter-finals at the World Championships (and, for that matter, at the Olympic Games tournament), well not a coincidence.
Omar Assar and Quadri Aruna, the friends “like Federer and Nadal” – Assar embraced Aruna on court at the 2023 World Championships after following in his friend’s footsteps as the second African quarter-finalist. In an exclusive with Olympics.com, he reveals all about their friendship and what it means to African table tennis.
In a recent match at the 2023 World Championships in Durban, South Africa, Assar defeated Croatia’s Tomislav Pucar in the last 16 and upon winning that match, Assar fell to his knees before inviting Aruna – who had been cheering him on in the crowd – onto court in a touching moment of friendship.
“I heard him during the match, while I was celebrating, I saw him in the tribunes. It was not planned at all, Assar explained.
“I invited him to the court and I wanted to share with him a moment, and I’m very happy that it worked out because it’s something going to last in our memories for a long time. I wanted to say to him, ‘Hey brother, you made it first, and I followed.”
Having met each other since 2008, when they first came in contact playing in the African youth championships in Morocco.
“Before that, I hadn’t seen Quadri on any occasion, even in Nigeria, I saw a guy who was very strong and very determined and a very big fighter. I was saying, wow, who is this guy? He was always in finals and we’ve shared this moment since 2008,” Assar recalled.
They have now played each other 21 times at the international level, with the Egyptian holding a 12–9 career head-to-head record over his friend and rival.
“It’s a brotherhood relationship,” Assar said. “I always dreamed that people in the world followed the African matches. It was exciting to see this rivalry, something like between (Roger) Federer and (Rafael) Nadal that they were sharing the final so long.”
“We are quite the same that we are sharing the final for the last 12 years already. We have played more than 80 percent of the African finals on the last 12 years in different occasions. And people were always waiting for this classic match most of the time: it’s like 4–3 and 12–10 in the last set. So I’m really enjoying it.”
The friendship continues off-court, with Aruna and his family spending time with Assar’s family in Germany and vice-versa in Portugal, where each of the men is mostly based these days for club commitments.
Although, Aruna was the first African man to crack the top 10 of the world rankings, and both he and Assar are currently in the top 25.
Culled By: Olympics.com