by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer
The excitement of playing on the big stage was written all over the face of Fathimath Dheema Ali in the training hall of Halmstad Arena.
She was jumping from one place to the other with the hope of playing her first match in the tournament but her joy was quenched when the intended opponent, Bangladesh, failed to show up for the encounter.
However, Fathimath Dheema Ali, a grade five pupil of Royal Institute international Girls School in Colombo, Sri Lanka is not giving up on meeting her idol, China’s Ding Ning in Halmstad.
“I feel so excited coming to Sweden. I am particularly proud to represent my country on a big stage like this. It has been a great feeling since I got to Sweden because I could never imagined that I will be playing in same competition like my idol, Ding Ning of China. It is a great moment for me and I hope to enjoy each day I spend in Sweden.” Fathimath Dheema Ali
In Halmstad, Fathimath Dheema Ali is accompanied by her mother, Aishath Waheeda, who explained that her romance with table tennis started when she was six years old after she was rejected by a badminton coach owing to her height.
“My father wanted me to do sport. He took me to a badminton coach who turned me down because I was too short to play the game. So I decided to embrace table tennis because it was easy to organise as we can play it in my house. So since I started, my parents have been supporting me and I am so happy that I am part of the Maldivian team to this great tournament.” Fathimath Dheema Ali
It is for the young lady a quite prodigious challenge, she is a quarter of a century younger than Muenna Mohamed, at 35 years of age, the most experienced member of the Maldives team.
“My dream is to make my country proud in the sport and continue to work hard to be able to make names for myself and family. I cannot wait to meet Ding Ning who I love watching so much. She is such a hardworking player who is always aiming to win her matches.” Fathimath Dheema Ali
The youngest player in action in Halmstad, the support from her mother is total.
“I am so happy and excited to see my daughter representing Maldives. I have decided to dedicate my time to particularly encouraging her. She is also doing well in her studies and this for us is enough to motivate us to continue backing her. She is here in Sweden because of the support we gave her and I want to charge other parents to support their wards in whatever they love to do but not to the detriment of their education. I am so happy that through the talent of my daughter I have the opportunity to come to Sweden.” Aishath Waheeda
The youngest players on duty, the most senior in Halmstad is Luxembourg’s Ni Xialian, 54 years old, four decades her senior; the unique quality of table tennis.