09 Jun 2017

Commencing in 2008 in Yemen; staged more recently in the Turkish cities of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa, a Coaching Workshop named Breaking Down Barriers with Table Tennis Balls, has set the tone for increased co-operation between Syrian refugees and host Turkish communities.

Following the success of the initiative led by Ahmed Dawlatly, ITTF Expert; Isa Islam, a former Turkish National Coach, who participated in the Gaziantep “Train the Trainers Workshop” was more than pleased to accept an invitation to travel to Düsseldorf to attend the Liebherr 2017 World Championships. He was accompanied by Susanne Gaerte, Officer Sport for Development International Relations from the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB).

by Daniela Gomes, Development and Education & Training Projects Officer

The workshops in Gaziantep and Sanliurfa were organised by the DOSB and the “Education Programme for Syrian Refugees and Host Communities” of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

It was made possible thanks to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Co-operation alongside GIZ and DOSB to implement the “Sports for Development” approach in Turkey.

“Coming to Düsseldorf has been an unforgettable experience and a great motivation for my daily work with Turkish and Syrian children in Gaziantep. I learned so much and I am committed to further strengthen table tennis in my region to promote social cohesion between Turkish and Syrian children.” Isa Islam


Isa Islam helped young players in the Fun Park (Photo: courtesy of Daniela Gomes)


Now Isa Islam is to contribute to the training of more Syrian and Turkish coaches. He participated in many activities during the Liebherr 2017 World Championships such as “One Game, One World” with children in the Fun Park; also, he met several world class players.

It was also an occasion to share his experiences directly with the International Table Tennis Federation. He met Thomas Weikert, ITTF President and Glenn Tepper ITTF Deputy Chief Executive Officer as well as Matthias Vatheuer, the Secretary-General of the German Table Tennis Association (DTTB).

“ITTF is very happy to once again partner with DTTB and DOSB for another project using table tennis as a vehicle for social change, in this case providing support for refugee table tennis programmes. DTTB has supported ITTF Development Programme annually since 2006, including major projects such as Ping Pong Paix, Peace through Ping Pong, in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, showing their strong and ongoing commitment to this area.” Glenn Tepper

At the Liebherr 2017 World Championships, Isa Islam had the opportunity to meet (left to right) Thomas Weikert, Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Mattheus Vattheuer (Photo: courtesy of Daniela Gomes)


Undoubtedly, this opportunity will prove an incentive for Isa to implement his own activities in Gaziantep as follow-up to the first workshop and help to promote social cohesion between refugees and host communities.

Activities for the implementation of extra-curricular educational sport programmes at schools and community centres, with a focus on intercultural exchange between Turkish and Syrian children as well as adolescents will continue.

The progress is thanks to the co-operation of several major organisations; in particular amongst whom the DOSB, GIZ, DTTB and the ITTF, the bodies at the heart of the initiatives.

Meeting in Messe Düsseldorf (left to right) Thomas Weikert, Isa Islam, Susanne Gaerte and Glenn Tepper (Photo: courtesy of Daniela Gomes)
High Performance and Development Coaching Liebherr 2017 World Championships Thomas Weikert Daniela Gomes Susanne Gaerte Isa Islam

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