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Thirty Years on Another Milestone for Matthew Syed at Oscars Celebration
By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Matthew Syed ,Sports Feature Writer of the Year  Photo By: Courtesy of Matthew Syed


In 1979 at the English Schools’ National Team Championships held at the Lea Green Sports Centre near Matlock in Derbyshire, Matthew Syed, as a member of the Aldryngton School team from Reading in Berkshire, stood proudly alongside elder brother Andrew when play had concluded.

They were waiting patiently to receive the perpetual trophy for winning the Under 11 Boys’ Team title. There was just one problem, the headmaster from the school who had won the previous year had forgotten to return the trophy; a replacement had to be found quickly.

Twenty-nine years later in 2008, there was no such panic when Matthew Syed had to step forward for another trophy that marked a milestone in his career. In March, he won the Sports Feature Writer of the Year award at the "Oscars of Sports Journalism", gathering in London.

The award was in recognition of the outstanding articles penned by Matthew Syed in the past twelve months.

Notably there was the appreciation of three times Men’s Singles World champion, Zhuang Zedong, who had been exiled after finding himself at the forefront of the Cultural Revolution and the in depth analysis of the greatest of them all, the boxer, Muhammad Ali.

“His highly original, investigative journalism throws much new light on world sport, the major players and the ever increasing involvement of high politics and commerce”, was the accolade received from the one of the leading judges.

Partial Justice
It is a comment which only does partial justice to the talents of Matthew Syed whose articles in the “The Times” and his commentaries on television are far reaching and thought provoking.
An outstanding journalist he has other talents to his bow; just ask Kalinikos Kreanga.

In 1991 Kalinikos Kreanga of Greece or Calin Creanga of Romania as he was then, had the utmost respect for England’s Matthew Syed; some seventeen years later, on Monday 17th March 2008, he had equal respect for the Englishman.

Extolling his defensive skills to the full, in 1991 Matthew Syed defeated Kalinikos Kreanga in the final of the Men’s Singles event at the Czechoslovakian Open; in 2008, using his entrepreneurial skills to the full, Matthew Syed stage managed the Dunlop Masters Tournament at the Royal Albert Hall in London won by the Greek star.

Best Ever
“It was the best tournament ever”, enthused a delighted Kalinikos Kreanga as he prepared for the Men’s Singles event at the Erke Qatar Open in Doha. “Four thousand five hundred people, it was fantastic.”
The competition was a massive boost for table tennis in England, televised and with celebrities Glenn Hoddle, John Barnes, Jason Harper and Jonathan Edwards all taking part in the extravaganza.

Master Stroke
Choosing the Royal Albert Hall, with its magnificent theatre setting, was a master stroke by the far seeing skills of Matthew Syed. There were no medals for him as there were in 1991 in Czechoslovakia or in 1997, 2000 and 2001 when crowned Commonwealth Men’s Singles champion, just immense satisfaction.

As for 1979 Matthew did lay hands on the English Schools’ National Under 11 Boys’ Team Trophy; eventually!

The trophy was posted by the previous winners to Peter Charters, the teacher in charge of table tennis at Aldryngton Primary School, who gleefully opened the package when it arrived; glee suddenly turned to despair, the trophy had been flattened beyond repair.

A new one had to be purchased but they needed a new one in any case, or at least that was the thinking of the forgetful headmaster.
Prior to 1979 the Under 11 event had been for both boys and girls, that year was the first time separate events had been held for the two genders, so it was better to have new trophies!

Innovative and Positive Thinking
Innovative and positive thinking, I’m not sure?

However, that phrase can certainly be applied to Matthew Syed.

It is innovative and positive thinking that made the Dunlop Masters a success and those attributes gained the man, who holds a first class honours degree from the world famous Oxford University, a very well deserved accolade in 2008 and a first for table tennis, “Matthew Syed, Sports Feature Writer of the Year”.



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