Did you notice that the sun seems to have lost its light and the sky is not as blue anymore?! . For sure it did not happen overnight; it is just that today you could clearly notice. Day three of the 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Tokyo and we went from bright spring-like sunshine to a rainy morning.
Could it be that the mighty Table Tennis god himself wanted to send a message to the international body of our sport on what should be its finest time, the day of the 2014 Annual General Meeting ?
Actually this post comes to you from the meeting itself. I am in the back of the room listening to the only ITTF president I have ever served as a professional staff; Mr. Adham Sharara. This will be the last stop for him on a magnificent Presidential journey that lasted for fifteen years.
Many times I have wondered, like all of my colleagues, where he got the fuel from, the energy and the passion to lead us the way he did. We have been treated with the best of what he could offer; flexibility, trust and patience. We all made mistake along the way – but it was never met with the hammer, instead Adham gave you the chance to succeed with other projects.
Certain things did however slow down the process lately . Maybe motivation – maybe political infighting finally took its toll on him? Silence came into the picture as a sign that something was not right . Clearly an indication as good as anything that something would come up eventually. There was a time when everything was responded to, every single email loaded with arguments, explanation and at times new directions .
To meet up one on one with Adham, a very busy person, was always a rare treat. Many times the discussion could take several hours touching on things that really had no importance or relevance for the issues on hand. Often it took the directions of sport politics and the whereabouts of colleagues and friends – before without you knowing it sliding into more important problem solving. I will miss those talks, the meetings with Adham. We will , all of us. miss his intelligence – stubbornness, and his ability to close down the worrying path of anxiety. Some of us, like him triggered by a good solid disagreement will also miss his long world champion emails (to quote a good friend).
It is true, in fact very true, that I clashed with Adham in some areas –general philosophy, tournament systems, ranking or what have you. In the end freedom of speech, perhaps my honest way of arguing did cost me in terms of loss of influence and the opportunity to hands on lead some of programmes that many believe are perfectly designed for developing our sport. Of course 159 Eleven points posts over five years did not help either – although I have to say that many of my articles in fact very much reflects all the good things initiated and approved by Adham . I danced with the devil in that sense. It is seldom an advantage to be outspoken – engaged and quality minded in an organization like the ITTF. Sometimes better say nada and to swallow the pride.
I have taken time to do this blog on my free time, evenings, nights and mornings. It has come from all corners of the world from hotels, venues, airport and you name it. The simple reasons for doing it relates back to my professional role driving ITTF Education and Training . Not too much the formal way – waiving with certificates , approving this and that – but rather by working the minds of people to understand what the true opportunities are and what has to be done to explore them . I have taken the time to motivate the fans of the sport by giving them a few inside takes from the ITTF meeting rooms and I have tried hard to push coaches and supporters to take deep interest in ITTF programmes on offer . That’s pretty much it –just an honest – straight shooting way to communicate that may have ruffled some feathers – but not more than that. The Elevenpoints blog has been me with all my good and perhaps lesser good sides exposed.
But, back to the rainy day in Tokyo and the announcement from Adham; “That this will be the last time I will lead this meeting as the president of the ITTF”. Of course we know that Adham will continue to be present – not only in our memories but also as resource, mentor for the new ITTF President Mr Thomas Weikert once he takes office 1 September this year. This is the timeline presented for the transition – Adham will retire and hand over duties to Thomas , who then will get two + years under his belt before the 2017 Presidential election. At the very same time, there is no doubt that the new President very quickly must come with a strong strategic plan bearing his signature for this to work. The ITTF, like any other organization , should allow for ideas to flow, in depth discussions to happen, for staff to be empowered and for implementation to happen.
Good luck to Thomas – whom I met this morning at 0630, am in the streets of Tokyo. I was taking a slow morning run – Thomas a must faster one, but in the in the end we joined together for the homerun. What I always liked about Thomas is that he is not afraid of embracing the rule of engagement that used to be so present in our sport. He has always carried the German team shirt with pride and passion. That may not happen anymore – political correctness rule over his new position.. Having said that – please remain the way you are – a true passionate fan of our sport and a competitor by heart.
Perhaps the most emotional moment from today’s AGM action came when Adham formally “placed” Mr. Koji Kimura – one of the best ITTF officials we ever had in the PAC – Presidents Advisory Council. Koji has always been Koji – fighting hard and honest for the things he believed was right from a development point of view. His presentations, often involving some sort of practical examples, were both funny and right to the point. The short thank you speech he delivered from the podium today did not have any kind of bitterness either. We could all learn from Koiji’s outlook on life; It has been wonderful – a happy time to serve you all and to work for the development of table tennis he gracefully said
From all of us – Thank You Koji . To reach the 53 years of service that you have given to the sport I need another twenty – which will be difficult. We all owe you another one as well –Thank You for letting us come to Tokyo and experience the 2014 ZEN-NOH World Table Tennis Championships. Without your passion and Adham’s vision we would never have been here.
Personally – and this is just a wild guess , I have a feeling that the departure of Koji Kimura from the ITTF Executive committee last year is one of the personal reasons that Adham mentioned in a short speech to close the meeting today . There are others of course – but I know that this was one of the many small arrows shot at one great ITTF Presidents heart.
No wonder that the light rain we experienced in the early Tokyo morning, suddenly, right at the very moment that Koji stepped down from the podium turned into more of a downpour than anything else. The sky was crying and so did I.
It is funny how you sometimes hit the same wave-length regardless if you are a fearless, truth-seeking table tennis blogger or the mighty god of Table Tennis himself.