by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Thanks to the efforts of those involved in Development, Education and Training, table tennis leads the world!
Recently, Leandro Olvech, the ITTF Director – Development, visited Cape Verde, an archipelago located off the northwest coast of Africa; the visit was made possible thanks to the support of Filomena Fortes, the President of the National Olympic Committee.
She met with Leandro Olvech, alongside Thomas Weikert, ITTF President and Glenn Tepper, ITTF Deputy Chief Executive Officer at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games; the meeting being arranged by Dragomir Cioroslan, Director of International Strategies and Development for the United States Olympic Team.
“During the Rio Olympics, Thomas Weikert, Glenn Tepper and myself had a meeting with Filomena Fortes where we explained our interest to bring table tennis to her country. She started her term three years ago and has the aim to bring more sports to Cabo Verde; she is committed to help and find the right people locally. And she did! The meeting was facilitated by our friend Dragomir Cioroslan, who has been supporting ITTF with his contacts wonderfully, my thanks for his help”, Leandro Olvech.
Commencing on Monday 23rd January and concluding on Saturday 28th January, Leandro Olvech conducted an ITTF/PTT Level One Coaches Course, whilst also meeting members of the National Olympic Committee to formalise the Cabo Verde Table Tennis Association; Cabo Verde as opposed to Cape Verde being the preferred name.
“Table tennis must be developed in our country; it is fun, a sport for all and can be implemented without high costs. We look forward to adopt it as part of a strategic plan to increase the quantity of sports practised”, Filomena Fortes
The man at the helm of the newly formed association is Jorge Silva, Portuguese by birth but resident in Cape Verde for the past 35 years.
“It is an historical moment and we will take advantage of it. We need to think big and spread table tennis everywhere, I want to gather a group of people working together to do it. We will first assess where there are tables and where there are venues able to receive them, then look to invade the country with table tennis”, Jorge Silva
Furthermore, visitors can expect a high level of hospitality when they visit the island as it seems Leandro Olvech discovered; Jorge Silva is the owner of “Pescador”, rated one of the best restaurants in the Island.
Venue for the first ever such course to be staged in Cape Verde was the National Stadium located in Praia in Santiago Island, the capital city; a total of 30 students attended, eight being women. Importantly they represented all nine inhabited islands.
“The course was amazing; half of the participants were Physical Education teachers, personally selected by the Sports in Schools Director from the government. The National Olympic Committee did a great job, bringing participants from all nine Islands. The group in general had almost no skills or knowledge about table tennis but were keen to learn. I had a very nice connection with the people and the way they fell in love table tennis. I hope this seed will flourish our sport in Cabo Verde, a country ready to be part of the ITTF family”, Leandro Olvech
Also to add to the positive outlook, there is a connection with China. The National Stadium was a donation from the Chinese government; however more pertinently Chun Su, a teacher of Chinese in Cape Verde, who speaks some Portuguese, proved a most valuable course member.
“It was my great honour to take part in this intensive course; this six day training was one of best experiences I have ever had in Cape Verde. I thought I would give up at the beginning because I had so many tasks to do during the Spring Festival, the most important Chinese holiday, but I held on till the last day. I need to give my sincere gratitude to many people who contributed to the success of the course”, Chun Su
A successful course and it was one which enjoyed a high level of local support from major officials.
Notably, Filomena Fortes attended both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies as did Rodrigo Bejarano, the President of the Cape Verde National Olympic Committee. Additionally, the Sport Minister, Sport in Schools Director and Prime Minister visited the course.
A well received course, the reaction of the students being most positive and most grateful of the efforts made by Leandro Olvech.
“I am a Physical Education teacher here in Santiago, I recently finished my PhD in China, where I played ping-pong; this course taught by Professor Leandro Olvech was very important to me because he increased my level as a coach and clarified the rules of table tennis so that I can teach the children in my school where I teach”, Kiluange de Melo Araújo, from Santiago Island
“I had never played table tennis and had no interest in it. During the week I started to like it and finished in love with table tennis, I feel like a kid with a new toy, I want to transmit this passion to the youth in my Island” Arsenia Cruz from São Nicolao
Undoubtedly, it was a very busy time for the ITTF Director Development but there was a great reward; quite simple everyone was motivated and the quest had proved successful.
“This course has been amazing as it can open new horizons for our youth in all levels. It gives the chance to learn, exchange, have fun and the most important with a healthy aim for their live” Victor Delgado, Militar from Santiago
“The course was excellent but the true challenge starts now to spread table tennis among all Islands, it depends on the Physical Education teachers to promote the sport and regional associations to be established” Pedro Pires from Fogo
Success in Cape Verde, now there is one more challenge to create the full house; the only country with a National Olympic Committee that does not have a national table tennis association is Guinea Bissau.
Royal Air Maroc flies from Frankfurt via Casablanca to Bissau; book your ticket Mr Olvech!