TTA paints town red, decked up to host 1st international TT

South Asian Youth Table Tennis 2023Itanagar: The presence of strong Indian Boys and Girls squads in the Under-19 and Under-15 categories to participate in the South Asian Youth Table Tennis beginning here tomorrow at the Dorjee Khandu Indoor Stadium, portends a medal sweep for the hosts.

But, more than the sweep here, the Indian paddlers would aim to complete the qualification process for the 27th Asian Youth Table Tennis Championships in Doha between July 17 and 22 and carry the confidence into the actual Qatar events to book their berths for the ITTF World Youth Championships in Nova Gorica, Slovenia, from November 26 to December 3, later this year.

Luckily, the U-19 Boys have done more than their bit to finish among the top-four teams during the last Asian Junior Championships in Laos, and they will not think of anything now but the Doha event. However, the girls will look to use the championships here as the launchpad to propel them to reach Doha.

With the Indian boys already having booked their place in Laos, the Arunachal events will offer a chance for the rest of the participating nations, as two squads from the region will earn their tickets to Doha, other than the one (India) already qualified, in the Boys’ section.

Hence, the paddlers from the region will vie with one another, individually and as a team, to showcase their prowess and talent. Of the remaining teams in the fray, the fight for the second slot in the U-19 Boys will brew between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi boys finished with gold, pushing Sri Lanka behind in the Maldives edition of the championships last year. The Indian Boys, having booked their berth, participated only in the individual events at that time, too. 

In the U-19 Girls, the Indians start as the favourites for the top-podium finish, and the Sri Lankans as the No. 2 team. The latter had shown their ability in previous editions and would not want to cede their position to any other teams from the region. For others, it will be a struggle.

There will be no change of scenario in the Under-15 Boys and Girls events, both by the teams and the individuals. The hegemony of Indians will continue in the former, while in the latter, the fight for gold in the singles and the doubles will be among the host paddlers, with entries limited to two per nation.

Table Tennis Arunachal (TTA) has understandably painted the town red through festoons and huge flexes and signages along the route from the airport to the city and the venue, leaving no vantage positions of the Arunachal capital vacant, thanks to the full-throated support from the chief minister, the state government and the Sports Directorate. Equally interesting was the traditional reception given to the visiting teams by protocol officers of the state at the Kolkata airport and the city hotels here.

The government machinery and the organisers, brushing aside the three-day local bandh, burnt the midnight oil to see things are spick and span, both at the venue and other places. The organisers have arranged from Guwahati makeshift air-conditioners for the stadium, keeping the participants' comfort in mind. As per the norm in international events, every team has been provided with a liaison officer who can speak their language for interaction and dedicated transport to travel back and forth from the hotel to the venue.

“It’s the first international event we are hosting. Without the proactive support of the TTFI, our government, and sponsors NHPC, we could not have made it possible,” said Passang Dorjee Megeji, secretary of TTA and vice-president of TTFI. “I would like to give credit to my entire team and the Directorate officials and the host of volunteers, who are witnessing first-hand and enjoying an international event in Itanagar,” he added.

ATTU’s Technical Delegate N. Ganeshan said the referee for the championships is Mangesh Mopkar will lead a team of 20 technical officials, including three international umpires, from the visiting nations. 

The organisers will use Stag Americas brand of tables, balls and flooring for the four-day championships.