by Neha Aggarwal
The quest for excellence is what matters in sport, irrespective of the level at which a country or player is competing. Saudi Arabia is not a world leader in the sport of table tennis but the constant struggle to be one is surely underway.
The players who are in New Delhi for Saudi Arabia are Abdulaziz Bu Shulaybi, Abdulaziz Al-Abbad, Abdulaziz Alamri and Ali Alkhadrawi, and they all put up a great show on day one of the Qualifications stage.
Coach of the team Youssef Rabie, formerly the coach of Dina Meshref in Egypt, explained the new approach the country has adopted for the development of the game in Saudi Arabia.
“Four years back I started working with the national team and we planned to improve our rankings at the international level. Most of the Arab countries only take part only in Arab and Gulf matches. Egypt is no.1 in Arab nations, we saw what Egypt is doing to improve their game. I proposed certain strategies needed to understands the zeniths of table tennis,” he explained.
Youssef Rabie continued,”Saudi is huge. To move from one place to another we need lot of money as the country has a wide landscape. We have been traveling to China for training camps since the last three years, to Chengdu and Guangzhou. In the last three years, we have been there for more than 10 times, for a minimum of two weeks for quality training.”
“We have also trained in Europe as well, in Hungary at the BVSC Club in Budapest. We also try to play more Junior circuit tournaments and develop our Hopes team, where we have done well in the past,” he added.
Saudi Arabia is consistently taking part in the Arab tournaments. Around six players in each of the categories, Mini Cadet, Cadet, Juniors, Under-21 and Men’s Singles take part. That is one of the most important tournaments for Saudi Arabia. But now, they are looking beyond the boundaries of the Arab world.
“We have been playing in the third division in the World Team Championships. Inshallah, our aim is to move up to the second division.”- Youssef Rabie
“In the singles, we want to move beyond the qualifying stage and progress to the main draw. In the junior is quiet hard to qualify for the World Championships because Asia is too strong. But we are always trying to be the best and hope we can do it.” Rabie explained.
The table tennis event at the Islamic Solidarity Games to be held in Baku from Wednesday 17th to Monday 22nd May 2017 is also the centre of focus for Saudi Arabia at the moment. “We are training hard for these games as they are very important for us,” said Rabie. The men’s team will be training in China ahead of the 2017 ITTF-Asian Championship from 9-16th April 2017.
The women have however been lacking the exposure as compared to men, which is due to the strict government rules in Saudi Arabia. “We don’t have strong team for women. They mostly play in the gulf area, and are not sent to international competitions,” said Rabie.
However, he would like to promote the participation of women as much as possible. He says, “But now we want to promote the women. I was the coach for Dina Meshref in Egypt, and I have worked with women’s team in the past. The federation is supporting our plan, but due to rules of the government, it is a little hard. I hope the women are encouraged to play as they are extremly talented.”
With the march towards improvement, Saudi Arabia has seen a rise in their performance graph and with the efforts put in, the are bound to reach new heights in the near future.
Ali Alkhadrawi, ranked no.343 in the Men’s singles, will play the quarter finals against Asuka Sakai at 10:30am IST. Watch all matches LIVE on itTV.ittf.com.