by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The formalities will be concluded at the ITTF Annual General Meeting to be staged in the German city of Düsseldorf on Wednesday 31st May and follow a visit to the West African country organised under the ITTF Development Programme led by Thomas Weikert, ITTF President accompanied by Leandro Olvech ITTF Director-Development and Joachim Davy, ITTF Digital Editor.
Leandro Olvech arrived in Guinea Bissau on Thursday 27th April eventually departing on Saturday 6th May; the mission clear, organise the formation of a governing body for the sport. He succeeded.
He led an ITTF/PTT Level One Coach Education Course at the University of Bissau, Physical Education and Sports Institute from Monday 1st May to Friday 5th May; an initiative that brought a most impressive response. Mostly sports teachers, a total of 30 students attended, 12 being female.
The course completed, alongside Thomas Weikert, who attended the second part, Leandro Olvech met important sports leaders in Guinea Bissau including Sergio Mané, President of the National Olympic Committee and Tomas Barbosa, State Secretary for Youth, Culture and Sport.
Important liaisons but the highlight of the whole proceedings was the day following the conclusion of the course when Ms. Avelina Jandi, a young sports teacher at the University from Bissau, was elected President. Organised by the International Olympic Committee, she is currently concluding her Executive Masters’ Degree in Sports Organisation Management organized by the International Olympic Committee. Additionally, Mohamed Iti Kamara was named National Technical Director.
Thomas Weikert duly handed over the ITTF flag whilst some 70 children enjoyed an introduction to the sport of table tennis.
Once officially ratified, the four new associations, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Eritrea and Bahamas the new associations will each receive support from Seamaster for the value of US$25,000.00 plus US$5000 equipment backing from Stag; two projects are planned for this year, two for 2018.
Guinea Bissau completes the jigsaw
“It is an honour for me to have received Thomas Weikert and Leandro Olvech in Guinea Bissau. I am highly committed to implementing table tennis throughout the country and would like to express my gratitude towards the support received from the ITTF, the National Olympic Committee and the State Secretary for Youth, Culture and Sport.”
Avelina Jandi, President Guinea Bissau Table Tennis Federation
“For the ITTF and for myself; our small associations have been a clear priority for many years, thanks to the dedicated work of the ITTF Development Department. Our focus must now be the empowerment of our smallest and most recent members; through our ITTF Marketing Department having secured the support of Seamaster, we are able to achieve this goal.
I am very glad to having the possibility to see with my own eyes the situation of an association starting from zero. This allows me a better understanding of the reality of these types of associations. Bringing table tennis to all parts of the world was a priority for the ITTF and I am really happy to see this process completed. We have to be aware that the challenges don’t end here but rather change the priority into empowering. This will be done with education, a key word for the development, by implementing administration courses to all national associations who want to take part in order to promote healthy, sustainable and autonomous members.”
Thomas Weikert, ITTF President
“ITTF changed immensely 18 years ago with the election of a new and innovative president, Adham Sharara. Many new staff and programmes were initiated.
Personally I was given three main tasks: to set up a worldwide Development Programme, to set up an ITTF Coach Accreditation Scheme and to have every country on earth as a member.
“Having every country on earth as a member, has been achieved in a sustainable and progressive manner over the last 18 years; adding a small number of national associations each year and giving each the ongoing technical and equipment support to develop. It has been a great team effort from many people, from ITTF Development and Education staff, to Continental Presidents, to ITTF Course Conductors and many others.
The fact our current ITTF President Thomas Weikert, personally went to sign the last country on earth and was assisting Leandro and myself at the recent Rio 2016 Olympic Games to liaise with the last four countries through their Olympic Committees shows the importance of this historic moment, which no other sport has achieved.”
Glenn Tepper, ITTF Deputy Chief Executive Officer
“I feel immensely happy to have been part of this visit to Guinea Bissau and the project of joining 226 countries under the umbrella of the ITTF. It is a big pleasure to witness this milestone in the history of the ITTF recruiting the last association in the world.
It is a clear reason to celebrate for the ITTF and to be proud of, even if this is only the end of a process that began in 1999, when the Deputy CEO Glenn Tepper started alone with the Development Programme in Oceania. I myself have contributed for almost 10 years to this goal, but the fact that we could achieve our aim was only possible thanks to an extraordinary teamwork with our current and past Continental Development Officers and the over 100 experts giving body and soul working in the field.
The key to success of the ITTF multi-awarded Development Programme is that we are a strong and solid team working hand in hand with the Education and Training Programme and in which we are all personally committed to the reality we are working in. We love what we do and we do what we love!
Leandro Olvech, ITTF Director – Development
Photos: courtesy of Leandro Olvech