by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa Press Officer

Sami Kherouf is an established face in the Algerian national team while Sofiène Mohamed Boudjadja has been an integral member of the team on several occasions. For the first time, Kherouf and Boudjadja formed a men’s doubles partnership in a major competition.

From the 32 pairs that were listed for the men’s doubles event at the 2019 African Games, the Algerian pair was seeded seven; they were not considered as title contenders amidst stars from Egypt, Nigeria and Tunisia.

However, from the way they handled each of their matches in the competition, it was clear that they were in for business. They pursued their dream with vigour.

Being the younger of the duo, Kherouf’s aggressiveness paid off when they faced Congo DRC’s Diawaku Diamuangana and Gedeon Kassa; Boudjadja being on the more defensive in all their encounters.

They edged the Congo DRC pair (11-7, 11-6, 5-11, 11-8) to face their biggest challenge against the fourth seeded duo of Segun Toriola and Olajide Omotayo of Nigeria at the semi-final stage.

On paper, Kherouf and Boudjadja were not the favourites against Nigerians but the Algerians shred the bookmakers odds with a convincing win (11-6, 11-7, 12-10) to reach the final.

From the applause that greeted their victory against the Nigerian duo, it was obvious that the Algerians were on a mission in Rabat, Morocco. In the final, they were set against number three seed – Egypt’s Mohamed El-Beiali and Ahmed Saleh.

Just as in the semi-final, Kherouf and Boudjadja defied all odds to put Algeria in the annals of history. They recorded a five games win (13-15, 11-7, 2-11, 11-6, 11-8) to reserve the top step of the podium.

Emotional scenes at the close of the final (Photo: Jerome Chinedu)

The celebration that greeted the win again confirmed the significant of the feat.

“This is the first time we played together in doubles and I think we played very well and it was an unbelievable thing to happen for Algeria because we have never won a gold medal in table tennis at the African Games. It was a good feeling and pleasure for us to become the first set of players to achieve this feat.” Sami Kherouf

Despite his long absence from the team, Boudjadja’s return brought good tiding.

“I am so excited especially having been out of the game for over a year; this competition is my return to the sport. I am so happy that we achieved this feat for our country; this means more money for the sport in Algeria and many kids will be inspired to play the game. I am so happy and I believe the whole country will celebrate this feat at home.” Sofiène Boudjadja

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