10 Jan 2019

Organised under the auspices of ITTF High Performance and Development, Kfarchima on the outskirts of Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, was the recent home for the West Asia Regional Hopes Week and Challenge. Proceedings commenced on Thursday 3rd January and concluded on Tuesday 8th January.

Under the direction of Egypt’s Hisham Ismail, the venue for the whole itinerary was the Adab and Riada Club.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

A total of 18 players participated, in addition to Lebanon, who provided six practice partners from the junior and cadet age group categories, players travelled from Iraq, Qatar, Oman and Syria.

Overall, 11 boys and seven girls born in 2007 and 2008 attended; each day training sessions being held from 9.00 am to 12.00 noon and from 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm.

Matters commenced with a series of matches to determine the level of each player and identify the main areas that needed addressing. Assessment concluded, Hisham Ismail organized a very detailed itinerary. Serve and receive, footwork, balance, consistency, moving from control to attacking play were all included in the schedule as was speed, fitness, tactics and short version matches starting at critical points. Throughout, multi-ball training was a major feature.

“Putting the players in the real match atmosphere made them focus. There was a great deal of discussion; most of their questions were about how to improve techniques and serves. Also, there were educational sessions for coaches, as well as discussions about the best strategies to improve table tennis in the country, develop players and address weak points.” Hisham Ismail

Matters concluded with the challenge tournament; nine boys participated, four from Lebanon, two from Iraq; one each from Qatar, Oman and Syria. Also four girls competed, three from Lebanon, one from Qatar.

A high level of play was witnessed; Syria’s Mohamed Salem Zaza won the boys’ singles event finishing ahead of Iraq’s Mohamed Thamer Ibadi; both from Lebanon, Bachir Adam Edelby and Edwardo El Bacha ended play in respective third and fourth places.

“Some of the boys showed good potential, like Mohamed Zaza from Syria and Mohamed Thamer from Iraq; also Bachir Edelby and Edwardo El Bacha surprised somewhat by reaching the last four. Additionally, two other players showed very good potential; Sultan Alkwary from Qatar and Ahmed Al-Riyami from Oman.” Hisham Ismail

Meanwhile in the girls’ singles event, the host nation’s Maria Tannous emerged successful with colleague Nour Al-Fata securing second place; Qatar’s Fawziya Saif Almalki reserved third position, Celine Kanj, also from Lebanon, ended the day in fourth position.

“My thanks to all the members of Lebanese Table Tennis Federation for their support, especially to Mr. Selim Hajj Nicolas the President; also to Wessam Chiri responsible for the national teams and Georges Kopaly, Secretary-General. Thank you for attending most of our sessions during the camp and always co-operating with me and the players; they made a great effort. Also my thanks go to all coaches and players from Lebanon, Qatar, Oman, Syria and Iraq for their participation and for giving an outstanding response during the training camp and the challenge.” Hisham Ismail

Promoting Hopes players in West Asia was the overall goal; Lebanon being a most appropriate destination, the focus of the national federation being very much on grass roots, building a new generation.

Notably, every weekend a training camp is held for the players in the Hopes age group. Currently, they are preparing for the Arab Schools Championships to be held in Egypt at March 2019; Lebanon may well prove prominent, we look forward to receiving the results.

High Performance and Development Coaching Hisham Ismail