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Crossing Borders, Table Tennis Unites, One Sport One Family
By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Totally focused in Ramallah  Photo By: Courtesy of Mohammad Atoum


Ramallah, a Palestinian city in the central West Bank some ten kilometres (six miles) north of Jerusalem, currently the administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority, welcomed Jordan’s Mohammad Atoum from Thursday 15th to Monday 19th March 2012.

He was present to conduct an ITTF/PTT Level One Coaches Course organised by the International Table Tennis Federation in conjunction with Olympic Solidarity. It is the first of two such courses for Palestine.

A second course commenced in Gaza on Wednesday 21st March and will conclude on Sunday 25th March.

“A total of 20 students attended the course of whom four were women; several of those attending were physical education students”, explained Mohammad Atoum. “It is the first course across the border line.”

The State of Palestine is recognized today by approximately two-thirds of the world's countries, although this status is not recognized by the United Nations, Israel and major Western nations such as the United States; thus Mohammad Atoum faced problems when trying to cross the border.

Difficult Journey
“It took a long time to reach Ramallah, it was really difficult, so I was really happy when I saw the General Secretary of the Palestine Table Tennis Association was there to meet me”, reflected Mohammad Atoum. “They waited a long time for me at the border line; the vision of the International Table Tennis Federation of one sport, one family rang very true.”

Again, as so often has happened in history, politics divides, sport unites.

Opening Ceremony
“At the Opening Ceremony on the first day, Dr Elyaziji the General Secretary of the Palestine Olympic Committee welcomed me to Ramallah”, continued Mohammad Atoum. “He thanked both Olympic Solidarity and the International Table Tennis Federation, whilst also encouraging the participants on the course to work hard; also present were several members of the Palestine Table Tennis Association including Mr Radwan Elshareef, the President and Mr Ahmad, the General Secretary.”

Matters begin, serving expertly and right learning control Photo courtesy of Mohammad Atoum

Proceedings Begin
Introductions over, it was time to start proceedings.

“The participants represented clubs from throughout Palestine; we held two sessions per day, one from 9.00am to 12.00 noon and a second session from 1.00pm to 4.00pm”, continued Mohammad Atoum. “It was really hard for everyone because all of them returned home each day, some had over a two hour journey.”
Nevertheless, matters were well organised by the Palestine Table Tennis Association; seven table tennis tables were organised with Stag prominent; over 300 table tennis balls were provided with lunch and drinks available.

Willing to Learn
“Everyone was keen to learn but they did not know there would be a test at the end”, smiled Mohammad Atoum. “I encouraged everyone to work hard, at the end of the course I was confident that this group has the ability to move table tennis in Palestine to another level.”

Mohammad Atoum was delighted and so were officials of the Palestine Table Tennis Association and local organisations.

Appreciating how to assist a wheelchair athlete Photo courtesy of Mohammad Atoum

Course Welcomed
“Courses of this kind educate our coaches to start players in the right way”, said Radwan Elshareef. “We very much support courses of this type.”

Most Educative
Equally, Salam Herbawi who works as a co-ordinator for activities in the Ministry of Education was delighted.

“For me, the sessions were very comprehensive, especially beneficial from a practical aspect”, she said. “Learning the different types of spin and how to deal with those types of spin was very educative; also learning about movement and the things you can do to make table tennis interesting were really useful and enjoyable.”

The Para Table Tennis part of the course Photo courtesy of Mohammad Atoum

National Coach Pleased
Similarly, other course members were more than pleased.

“We learned a great deal about footwork, serving, receiving service and working with beginners”, said Radi Elshareef, the National Team coach and former international player. “it is the best course I have ever attended, the time passed very quickly.”

Views Echoed
The views were echoed by Elias Tams Orthodox, a club coach. “The lessons were very valuable”, he said. “For me the lectures were most valuable; it was a treasure trove of information; I think everyone appreciated this course.”

Congratulations are due to Mohammad Atoum for delivering another successful course in the Middle East; deservedly he received the thanks from local officials at the Closing Ceremony.

Ready for a practical session Photo courtesy of Mohammad Atoum

All Congratulated
“Dr Elyaziji asked the coaches what they had learned and he stated that he looked forward to seeing similar courses in the future”, said Mohammad Atoum. “He congratulated everyone; officials from the Palestine Table Tennis Association, including the General Secretary were all present.”

Matters ended on a very positive note; for Mohammad Atoum, there was a sense of achievement, it was an experience of which he was duly proud.

“I will not forget this place”, he concluded. “Everyone was so kind.”

Next stop is Gaza City.

Course members proudly holding certificates Photo courtesy of Mohammad Atoum



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