Doha leg of ITTF Veterans Tour kicks off in style
The inaugural series, currently underway at the Qatar Sports Club, is the need of the hour, feel senior players.
Doha has played host to a number of elite table tennis competitions in the last two decades.
But the International Table Tennis Federation’s (ITTF) inaugural World Veterans Tour, currently underway at the Qatar Sports Club Indoor Hall, offers something different.
Doha was one of six cities chosen to host the inaugural event. It kicked off in Shenzhen, China, on August 8, before moving to Townsville (Australia) and Fort Lauderdale (United States). After Doha, the Tour will conclude in Cardiff (Wales) on December 16. Innsbruck (Austria) pulled out, citing lack of sponsors.
ITTF President Thomas Weikert had sounded confident of its success while launching the series earlier this year. “This is the ITTF’s initiative to bring together a group of players aged 40 and over, from across the world, in a professionally organised, marketed and operated Tour,” he had said.
Former Qatar national team and Al Arabi coach Oleg Shemet felt the idea had huge potential.
“There’s a large demographic of older players around the world who’re still very competitive and keen to be part of the international calendar. But they obviously can’t fight against youngsters on the professional circuit. The veterans’ initiative is a huge move in the right direction, and the response to it is quite revealing,” he told Inside Qatar.
Over 150 players, from 13 countries, are taking part in the Doha event, featuring five age categories. India’s Najmi N Kinkhabwala, who is 73 and playing in the Men’s Over-70 category, said it gave him a great platform to perform.
“I’ve been playing for over 50 years and have represented India at several international competitions. The Veterans Tour is a perfect avenue for players like me, who still love the game. For the first time, we’ll have a world ranking system, and it’ll help the new concept take root,” said Kinkhabwala, a former cricketer who had played against the likes of the legendary Sunil Gavaskar at the university level.
Russian duo Svetlana Okorokova and Gordeeva Svetlana, both 51, said they were enjoying the competition.
“Although we’ve participated in veterans events before, this is our first time in an official ITTF event. We may not win, but merely being part of a world-class event is thrilling,” said Okorokova, who is in Doha with her friend Gordeev Sergei, who will compete in the men’s tournament.
The ITTF has invested much time and energy into the Veteran’s Tour, giving it a dedicated website, event-specific pages and enhanced marketing and social media programmes.
It seems to be working, and the tournament seems to have caught the eye of Qatari fans. Several of them were at the venue, cheering the players on. For the players too, it is an enjoyable exercise as they relive past glories and old rallies.