by Romina Concha Sepulveda, ITTF Foundation Consultant
In March 2018 the “Buenos Aires – Tokyo” project started; its aim is to provide opportunities for young people living in impoverished areas to play table tennis. The initiative is focused on those with a Japanese background, a disability or living in inner city Argentina; the goal is to provide an opportunity that would usually not be possible.
Sponsored by Stag, the Indian equipment manufacturer and by the Global Sports for Development Foundation; the concept is endorsed by numerous organizations. Notable supporters include the Argentina Olympic Committee, Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games Organizing Committee, the Embassy of Japan in Buenos Aires, the Argentina Table Tennis Federation, the Argentina Table Tennis Federation for the Disabled, Japanese Table Tennis Federation, the International Table Tennis Federation and the ITTF Foundation.
Overall, the project is being held in six locations: a school in Obera, Misiones Province plus in Buenos Aires, Japanese associations in Florencio Varela and José C. Paz plus two schools in Villa Martelli and one centre for people for those with a disability in Moron.
Matters are being co-ordinated by Soledad Tenzi, coach of the Argentina national team. She is pleased with how the project progressed to date.
“I have no doubt that the project will be a success with the quality of coaches and the upcoming arrival of equipment. Participants will be able to visit the Tecnopolis venue, where table tennis will take place; this is a great incentive for those who are already participating in the project and the ones who will do in the future.” Soledad Tenzi
Pertinently, Villa Martelli is in the northern area of Buenos Aires next to the table tennis venue where the Youth Olympic Games is located. The area is surrounded by slums, a region where a high density of the population lives under precarious conditions. Additional to table tennis, the Olympic values are being used to promote social topics and promote a message of inclusion. The theme is to connect Argentina and Japan, using the Youth Olympic Games athletes as role models for the youth.
Also, the “Buenos Aires – Tokyo” link is present in the Japanese associations. Founded by the Japanese community in Argentina; families enjoy the sport and participate together in bi-monthly doubles tournaments.
Meanwhile, the project in Moron targets players with disabilities and is led by a coach who specialises in Para table tennis; thus offering a high quality knowledge to the participants.
Currently, there are 309 participants taking part of the overall project: a total of 171 boys and 138 girls. Children are most enthusiastic about table tennis in primary schools and are looking forward to visiting the Youth Olympic Games in October.
The project in Moron for the disabled (Photo: courtesy of Romina Sepuldeva)