It is rare to find a sixteen year old talking about business and career. Tosin Esther Oribamise is one. At this tender age, the Ekiti born student of Human Kinetics and Health Education, Ekiti State University (EKSU) has chosen to play professional Table Tennis and also take the game as her career. And she has the support of her parents… and her school that placed her on scholarship since her Year one for her prowess in the game.
She started playing the game at nine. She had recorded tremendous success. From primary school, to secondary and now tertiary, she had represented her school, state and Nigeria in the youth category of world table tennis. She had been to Cote d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Egypt, Slovenia, Japan, and she will be representing Nigeria in the World Youth Olympics in Argentina in 2018.
Tosin recently spoke to Mustapha Ogunsakin, Publisher, Gavel International, recently at EKSU campus. She was in the company of the institution’s Pro Chancellor, Mr Dele Adesina SAN, and the Vice Chancellor, Prof Samuel Oye Bandele. Excerpts:
Please can you introduce yourself?
My name is Oribamise Tosin Esther. I am a student of Ekiti State University, faculty of Education studying Human Kinetics and Health Education. And I play table tennis.
Can you tell us how long you have been in the tennis business?
I’ve been in it for about seven years now. I was nine years old when I started.
How did you come about playing table tennis?
I was in primary school when my coach came around to select some pupils that would represent the school in the Elder Bankole Annual Table Tennis Primary School Competition. My primary school was Holy Trinity Nursery and Primary school Ado-Ekiti. So I was picked among the pupils to represent the school in the competition. After the competition, my parents started encouraging me, telling me that I could build a career out of tennis and ever since then I’ve been putting in efforts and I’ve been gaining their support.
Are your parents into sports?
Not really but my Dad loves going for recreational games like draft, chess and other board games. But mum isn’t into any sport at all.
Was he excited when he heard the news?
Yes, he was very glad because like I said earlier, he was one of the reasons why I put more efforts in the game and took it up as a career because he encouraged me.
So after your first competition what happened?
In the competition I came second and I was given a certificate and a medal. When I took it home, my parents were very happy that I came second in my first competition. On that day, my dad gave me money for my first racket so I bought it and that was when I started training
Which next competition did you go for?
I went for Oduduwa primary school game that was in Ibadan where I also came second. It was a South-West Nigeria competition. So afterwards I went for National School Sports Festival in Ogun State which was a national competition held in Abeokuta and I came first there. Next up I went to Kano and that was when the national table tennis board members came to select some players to represent the country in Cote D’ivoire in an African competition.
I came first in the competition and won two gold medals and I also qualified for a world challenge and that was in 2012.
As you progressed, how did you feel about it?
I felt very proud of myself and happy because I started it just for fun but now, it has become a career/business for me.
Has it been financially rewarding? If so, how?
Yes it has been. I am receiving some stipends that I use to take care of myself and I don’t have to be asking my parents for little things that most of my friends ask for from their parents. Even though I haven’t been well compensated, the little ones I receive are enough motivation.
So daddy still pays the school fees?
Concerning the school fees, I’m on scholarship courtesy Ekiti State University management.
I learnt that you just came back from Egypt. How was the Egypt experience?
It was great although it wasn’t my first time of going to Egypt. But it was my first time of going to the city Shamel shek in Egypt. The competition was great because I was able to put in my best and I performed very well. I was able to win a gold medal and a bronze medal.
Did you get any recognition from the National Table Tennis Federation?
They were the ones who sponsored the trip so I think the compensation is supposed to come from the National Sports Commission but we haven’t received anything from them.
Have you made any requests from Federation?
Since my game is an individual one, I really can’t do that based on what I met on ground. I’ve discussed with my senior ones who also faced the same thing but they said penning down a complaint would not be the best option for me.
Do you plan on developing this game to an international level? For instance, getting sponsors from China or USA. Would you be willing to take up such offers? And what if you are encouraged to play for other countries aside Nigeria what would you do?
I won’t do that because Nigeria still remains my country. All I just want is for the ministry and sports board to do something to motivate me so that others can see that there is a career in the game. I don’t really wish to play for other countries based on the problems I’m facing from the federation.
How old are you now?
What other challenges have you faced in the course of playing Table Tennis?
The challenges are the ones I stated earlier on because it is really annoying to see your friends from other countries who are not even performing as good as you are being well compensated. After the competition, I make friends with competitors from other countries and we discuss about how their countries have been teaching them and when they tell me that they receive thousands of dollars. Even without winning anything they are compensated and appreciated but there hasn’t been anything like that over here. Some of them even have their own houses and private cars. I know we all have to face various challenges of life but I haven’t been very happy about that.
What has the University done for you?
This University has been my number one support ever since I got admitted in 2015. I hadn’t even spent a full session in the school when I was given scholarship and they refunded me my first payment. They’ve sponsored me to two competitions and they’ve supported me in two international competitions as well.