02 Mar 2017

It is with great sadness that the untimely death of Anders Johansson, the Swedish Table Tennis Association’s Director of Sport, is announced.

He passed away on Friday 24th February; he was 52 years old.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
In recent years, Anders Johansson contributed greatly to the success of the Swedish Women’s Team; notably Li Fen was crowned European champion in 2013 and alongside Matilda Ekholm competed in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

However, it is not the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for which Anders Johansson is vivid in my memory; it Athens 2004.

Unexpectedly, he was seen walking around the stadium at the Opening Ceremony. In his pocket he felt his mobile phone vibrate; he had been spotted by Ulf “Tickan” Carlsson, the Swedish national coach who was watching on television. Tickan was astounded to see that Anders was wearing the colours of Jordan!

Anders was present as the coach of Zeina Shaban; earlier in the year he had been approached by Mikael Andersson, at the time the ITTF Global Junior Programme Manager, if he would consider coaching the young lady from Amman, who is now royalty, being princess Zeina. Anders agreed but only received confirmation from the Jordan Olympic Committee that he would be required at the Opening Ceremony.

Simply, the immediate willingness to help Zeina Shaban underlined the dedication Anders Johansson; certainly Sweden was dear to his heart but above all, he supported table tennis, it was his passion.

A coach of renown, Anders Johansson was also a promising young player, he was amongst the top 20 cadet boys in Sweden but in his era there was intense competition. Also vying for places in the Swedish national team were the likes of Erik Lindh, Mikael Appelgren, Jörgen Persson and a certain Jan-Ove Waldner.

Somewhat prematurely, when 15 years old, he decided to retire and focus his attentions on coaching.

He attended the Swedish University of Physical Education, studying physiotherapy as a second subject, whilst gaining teaching qualifications. Following graduation, in 1987 he became assistant coach at Malmö FF, a position he held until 1991.

Also, he lectured at the local college in Malmö, taking a break from table tennis until returning in 1993 when he was asked by Anders Thunström, the Swedish national coach at the time, to be the men’s team masseur. Successful, the work appreciated he fulfilled the role at 1995, 1997 and 1999 World Championships as well as at the European Championships in 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2003. Later he was to undertake a similar role for Denmark before returning to work for his native Sweden.

Dedicated to table tennis but notably there was one other great sporting interest in his life; from 1994 to 2000 he was heavily involved in equestrianism. In particular he was involved in dressage, where he saw a link with table tennis; if you taught a horse to trot correctly there would be no injuries. Likewise if a table tennis player is taught correct technique, there will be no injuries.

The comparison was one of the many conversations I had with Anders Johansson who was somewhat the master of the understatement.

I had totally misread my itinerary, I arrived at the 2012 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Hangzhou, I wasn’t supposed to be there! I interviewed Kong Linghui after Liu Shiwen had beaten Feng Tianwei; I came back to my place in the tiered seating where Anders joined me.

Discussing the match, I explained that I was sure that Kong Linghui would be the next national coach for the Chinese women’s team. Anders paused for a moment, turned to me and said: “not a bad pick”.

Explaining why that sticks in my memory is difficult to explain but now I am so pleased I misread that email; I have a very special memory Anders Johansson, one I will always treasure, I can see his face now turning towards me as I write. It was and will always be for me a moment to remember.

Our condolences to his family, girlfriend and two children; Anders Johansson is sadly missed.

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