by Simon Daish
The decision to reappoint Massimo Costantini as Head Coach comes at the perfect time for India after their disappointing Olympic campaign in Rio de Janeiro.
Rio 2016 saw four Indian Table Tennis players qualify across the two singles events: Sharath Kamal Achanta, Soumyajit Ghosh, Mouma Das and Manika Batra but they were all eliminated on day one of the competition leaving TTFI secretary general Dhanraj Choudhary (Table Tennis Federation of India) disappointed with the outcome, “It was a pretty disappointing performance from our players in Rio. We were never in medal contention but we expected our players to get a couple of confidence boosting wins. They should have won a round or two.”
Massimo Costantini took up coaching after his retirement from the Italian national Table Tennis team at the 1995 World Team Cup in Atlanta. He was eventually named as the Italy Head Coach in 2002. In 2007 Costantini coached the UAE for a year, and went on to agree a deal to become India’s Head Coach from 2009-2010 where he led the country to five medals (1 gold, 1 silver, 3 bronze) at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Indian star Sharath Kamal Achanta went on to win both the 2010 Egypt Open Men’s Singles title and the US Open Championships in the same year, and the majority of the players Costantini worked with saw improvements in their world rankings.
Costantini then became the head coach of ICC (Indian Community Center), and was selected to coach the USA at Rio 2016, “USA has been a magic, great experience constellated by various achievements, from making Olympians to making USA table tennis history when Lily Zhang won the bronze medal in Nanjing at the 2004 Youth Olympic Games, from winning numerous National Titles to making little kids a little champion from scratch.” Costantini added, “Last in chronological order was to be selected as Olympic Coach/Team Leader making me extremely honored for representing a leading country in sports.”
Returning as India’s Head Coach once again, Costantini has set out his plans to improve the quality of Table Tennis coming from the country, “First, I’d say, I would like to continue and complete something that was interrupted; secondly I will live this second assignment with different eyes and knowledge. In the last six years table tennis has changed a lot, and is going eventually to change more and more.”
“Saying that, we coaches have to consider table tennis as a very alive matter. We have to keep up-to-date our knowledge, our belief, our mindset because the way we interact with players, parents, managers brings automatically new challenges and, at last, keeping in mind that our mission is not only to make results but also to promote the sport and leave a good sign for future generation of players and coaches.” – Massimo Costantini (India Head Coach).
Dhanraj Choudhary has stated that the reasoning behind Costantini’s reappointment is not just because of his familiarity with the Senior squad, but also to help improve the younger generation of Indian Table Tennis stars, “All the players know him well and have a good understanding with him. That was one of the main reasons we decided to bring him back. However, this time Costantini will focus equally on the junior and youth teams. We have to prepare the next crop of players.”
Costantini has been given a one-year contract as India Head Coach, while Bhawani Mukherjee will serve as national coach.