Nothing Beats Excellence

The Talk of the Town ; Quadi ARUNA from NIgeria connecting with fans at the ISS Dome

The Talk of the Town ; Quadi ARUNA from NIgeria connecting with fans at the ISS Dome

Black dress and shiny shoes. It’s party time in Dusseldorf with one of the finest events we have on the international calendar – the Men’s World Cup providing the entertainment.  We are by now into day three of an event that over the last few years changed the format countless times.  Competing this year we have twenty players; six continental cup champions and then a mixture of players basically picked up from the world ranking with the green light selection related to having participated in the continental cups.

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Playing system can always be discussed and from the feel and talk of it – the blogger himself is getting old and clearly carrying the stamp on the forehead; it was better in the past!  My argument to expose the top players over three days with the traditional sixteen players’ four groups’ format was quickly dismissed by the ITTF Marketing guru Matt Pound as not very interesting. He wanted drama – knock out system and didn’t care for a minute having basically one day of qualification in a world event of this nature.

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All credit to him for holding fort and perhaps he is right. People of today seem to want a quick fix with high drama and immediate results. Anyhow – this doesn’t really matter. The world cup is still a presentation event taken seriously by the players. The best want to be here and they want to win .This is a rare situation in our sport. Often we have too many participation based events on the calendar – hard – or I would say impossible to digest for the few hard core fans we have.

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Can we review – rethink and perhaps launch some kind of new professional system?   Well, let’s ask those in charge and by all means put pressure on them to actually do it. The Pro Tour – World Tour or whatever you name it has been the same open to all concepts since it all started in the late nineties. National Association knowing or not knowing their own DNA? – enters players into a system, a concept   providing very little payback to the development of our sport    .Because – as I always said the future pulls the other way towards an individually based performance oriented system – driven by the passion for excellence.

Here in Dusseldorf we have seen good – entertaining table tennis. Ma LONG looks incredible good – strong –more technically innovative than I have seen him before – Timo BOLL is the hungry German this time and Jun MIZUTANI just dominated his quarterfinal match against Chuan CHI YUAN winning in five games. Last but not least we have the champion of all champions Zhang JIKE entering the Sunday action following a four to two win against the crowd favorite  ; The Nigerian twenty six years old fighter Quadi ARUNA.

And what a show he put on ARUNA. Not only did he win his qualification group – he also took out – like a sign from the Table Tennis God, Tang PENG from Hong Kong in the last sixteen stage early Saturday.

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It’s funny how good we all felt that something new was happening in front of our very eyes. The playing style is from the past – but the temper and personality belonged to something called the future. He showed fight and passion – two forgotten attributes that never fails because it brings out the best of you – the very true ideals – the honest you.

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Fourteen year old Kanak JHA fighting face.

Fourteen year old Kanak JHA fighting face.

What we watched this weekend, starting with a positive appearance from the fourteen year old blue blooded American Kanak JHA finishing with the ARUNA show was true development and nothing else. Players entering a field of world class players – not only to be there –to participate but instead to try their very best – to pursue excellence is more important than we may believe. These two guys separated by much – but still connected by passion and dreams each became not only noticed, but also celebrated by a knowledgeable – passionate group of German fans. It was nice to watch – we enjoyed it and so did others I am sure, following the action on some of the media platforms that we offer. After all we are talking two countries or markets as the ITTF Marketing Director Steve DAINTON says home to a considerable number of people. Last time I check the USA had more than 250 million people living in the country and for all what it matter – Nigeria is not too bad either entering the top ten most populated countries in the world with ease.

Lesson to be learned from the reasoning you may ask?  Well, my point is this.. We need to stay on track and have programs and for a sure an improved competition system driving excellence. Money invested into development can easy cover the basic needs of education – but there must be room for talented players to grow as well. Over the last few years I have the feeling that we somehow  lost track and drove right into the ever dangerous sport political mine-field.

Good, functional programs or key events on the junior side are therefore at risk. They may be slaughtered tomorrow for reasons that nobody really understand.  Just stop that. Rise up – stand up against pull-backs that limits the opportunities for young players in our sport. Instead it is time to invest – to review and to restart.

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One of the finest creations, an event that always been the centerpiece in the ITTF Global Junior Program is underway in Barbados. Of course I am talking about the World Cadet Challenge – designed for learning excellence more than anything else.  I will have to dig out the original vision for this event ;why it was put there and why we overtime came to connect around this event.

In a moment like this – I would say that nothing really changed. We are what we are – passionate workers – living of the gracious sport called  Table Tennis.  Somehow the ITTF  lost a positive identity –kind of the  the understanding of how things  will happen in our sport. I believe in excellence as one of the main drivers of development – this night 100 million Nigerians talking table tennis again or Table Tennis companies running hard to sign a young talented American understands what we all once collectively understood;  Nothing beats excellence !

Its Sunday night turning Monday morning in Dusseldorf . Life goes on .

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