Showing the way in Gaza
Photo By: Courtesy of Mohammad Atoum
The visit to Ramallah, situated in the central West Bank near Jerusalem, completed on Monday 19th March 2012; the next stop for Jordan’s Mohammad Atoum on his tour of Palestine was to visit Gaza city, located on the Gaza Strip with a Mediterranean coastline.
However, for Mohammad Atoum, visiting the area did present some problems.
He was not allowed to pass through Israeli territory to reach his destination.
Therefore, he returned home to Jordan, travelled to Cairo and eventually entered Gaza via the Egyptian zone.
Welcomed at the Border
At the border he was met by Mosbah Asaglana, Assistant Secretary of the Palestine Table Tennis Association, who facilitated Mohammad Atoum’s entry to Gaza and worked tirelessly with the organisation of the course.
Eventually after two days of delay, proceedings commenced on Friday 23rd March, the course concluding on Tuesday 27th Match 2012.
Organised under the auspices of the ITTF Development Programme in conjunction with Olympic Solidarity, a total of 23 students attended the five day course.
The course members comprised members of the national team, local coaches and physical education teachers with four members of the group being women; they were from the Ministry of Education
“An Opening Ceremony marked the official start of the course”, explained Mohammad Atoum. “Present for the occasion were Walid Ayoub, the Vice President of the Olympic Committee, Wael Afaneh the co-ordinator of Olympic Solidarity; Mohamed Gouda, the President of the Palestine Table Tennis Association and Mosbah Asaglana, as well as being the Assistant Secretary, he is the President of the Islamic Centre.”
The formalities over, the programme began with sessions being held from 9.00 am to 12.00 noon and from 1.00 pm to 4.00 pm; six table tennis tables, some 300 table tennis balls plus for the Para Table Tennis sessions, a wheelchair and crutches were made available.
An intense programme but well received by all, a great deal of enthusiasm was shown with Mohammad Atoum being delighted with the response.
"I learned a lot in these sessions, especially how to plan for training and how to deal with table tennis players, whether beginners or professionals”, said Abdul Salam Saber, the coach at the Islamic Centre club in Gaza, currently in first place in the Gaza League. “I would like to thank the lecturer for his patience; also for the Palestine Table Tennis Association and the International Olympic Committee.”
Mohammad Atoum (far left) with local officials Photo courtesy of Mohammad Atoum
Delighted with Course
A positive response and it was the same from Reem Fayyad, a member of the Palestine National Team and a player who had participated in the Arab Club Championships held in Jordan last year.
"I am very happy with this course”, he said. “It has helped coaches improve their capabilities and that will contribute to improve the game of table tennis in Palestine."
Delighted course members and Mosbah Asaglana was also more than pleased.
“The sessions were of a very high level; also, it gave coaches motivation to work for the development of the sport”, he said. “I was very pleased to see the integration of able bodied and disabled players; my thanks to the International Table Tennis Federation and the Palestine Olympic Committee for making everything possible, I hope such courses can be repeated, they play a significant role in the development of sport in Palestine.”
A practical session underway Photo courtesy of Mohammad Atoum
A successful course despite the initial difficulties faced by Mohammad Atoum; certainly his efforts were greatly appreciated.
“Dr.Madhoum, the Minister for Youth and Sport alongside Walid Ayoub, Mohammad Ghouda, Mosbah Asgalani and Wael Afaneh plus members of the media attended the Closing Ceremony”, explained Mohammad Atoum. “Dr Madhoun stressed the need to reflect on what had been learned and to work for the future of the sport in Palestine; in addition Walid Ayoub thanked the International Table Tennis Federation and the Palestine Olympic Committee for organising the course, he urged the coaches to encourage more Palestinian presence in Arab competitions.”
Vote of Thanks
Positive words at the Closing Ceremony and for Mohammad Atoum it was mission accomplished.
“My thanks to everyone involved at the Palestine Olympic Committee and the Palestine Table Tennis Association; after the difficulties of entering Gaza it was really pleasing to find such a positive atmosphere and a strong desire from the coaches to learn”, said Mohammad Atoum. “I was able to meet with the Minister of Youth and Sports to discuss the future of table tennis in the area and the establishment of table tennis centres, the meeting was very positive.”
All smiles, Mohammad Atoum (centre) with course members Photo courtesy of Mohammad Atoum
Also Mohammad Atoum was able to visit table tennis clubs in the area, some affiliated to the Palestine Table Tennis Association, others not.
“I met the President of the Al-Naser Club; we discussed the positives of table tennis when compared with other sports; also I visited the Al-Maghazy club where we talked about how to develop table tennis and attract new players; several coaches on the course were from this club”, added Mohammad Atoum. “Additionally I visited the BASMA club for the deaf where I conducted a practical session; we focused on imparting spin on the ball, all were happy.”
A Message to Athletes
A motivated group and Mohammad Atoum was also motivated.
“My message to all athletes is to leave politics to politicians”, he concluded. “Let us enjoy sport, especially table tennis.”
Sport is in essence competition but it unites; politics is also competition, too often it divides.
Members of the course successfully staged in Gaza city in Palestine
Photo courtesy of Mohammad Atoum