by Michael Brown, ITTF and Africa-Oceania Development Co-ordinator
However, just down the road some 10 minutes is the Bishop Lavis suburb, where the glamour of the World Junior Table Tennis Championships is playing a different role.
Introducing, Byrone Abrahams, an 18 year old South African youth that grew up in the Bishop Lavis community, one of the poorest areas in Cape Town. It was through his attendance at school in Bishop Lavis where he was first exposed to table tennis when ten years old.
The area where Byrone grew up is not only poor but also a playground for drug dealers.
Other social issues in the area include alcohol abuse; drug abuse; youth pregnancy and gangsterism to name but a few. Like so many areas; this is a low-income area and often the focus is on survival and no time for extra cultural activities such as sport or even school work. Parenting is often non- existent and in most cases kids are left to fend for themselves. Byrone was very talented when starting to play and was identified early as a potential future champion by his coach Mr Denver Titus.
The Chairperson of Bishop Lavis Table Tennis Club; Mr Rhiyaan Cupido; recently successfully entered the club into a partnership agreement with Ping Sans Frontieres, the French NGO to assist the club with development of the game in these deprived communities. Part of the agreement is to twin with a French club and we hope this partnership will allow Byrone access to be trained in France.
He has shown remarkable character to rise above the social evils in his community and now is a role model to other youth. Byrone currently coaches these kids from the community daily for about 15 hours per week, giving something back to the local community.
While in Cape Town, the ITTF President, Thomas Weikert, ITTF Deputy CEO Glenn Tepper and ITTF Development Co-ordinator Michael Brown visited the Bishop Lavis Table Tennis Club, and jointly led some fun table tennis activities for the children, and experienced first-hand the joy the sport of table tennis provides the local children.
“It was a great pleasure to visit Bishop Lavis, and to meet some of the young children. Table Tennis came make a huge difference in the life of kids, and it is great to see what this club is doing for the local community, Thomas Weikert
Byrone represented his country, in his home town, playing against the worlds best. Not only has he shown his table tennis on the skills, he is now also passing on these skills to many children throughout his local community.