20 Oct 2021

Upon finishing the WTT Star Contender Doha and the Asian Table Tennis Championships, Afghan players Mustafa Bakhtiyari, Mohammad Hosseini, and Behrooz Daneshmand visited Afghan evacuees in Villa Park Compound, Doha.

Initially built for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Villa Park Compound is now the temporary home to Afghan evacuees. With support from the Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA) and the ITTF Group, the three Afghan athletes not only represented Afghanistan at WTT Star Contender Doha 2021 and the Asian Table Tennis Championships, but they have also had the chance to inspire Afghan evacuees in Villa Park Compound.

Mr Khalil Al-Mohannadi, President of Asian Table Tennis Union (ATTU) and President of Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA), ITTF Deputy President said:

“It has been a pleasure to welcome the national team from our Afghan neighbours. We are delighted to award them wildcards where the Afghan national team could compete against some of the best table tennis players in the world. As the newly elected President of the Asian Table Tennis Union, I am happy to see our favourite sport is celebrated by everyone regardless of political turmoil.”

Accompanied by QTTA, ITTF Group officials, as well as the Qatar Foundation, the athletes were excited to see their compatriots outside of Afghan borders.

“Thank you to the ITTF Foundation for arranging the Afghan national table tennis team to travel to Qatar, and thank you to Qatar Table Tennis Association for hosting us. We would also like to thank the ITTF Group for making our participation at WTT Star Contender Doha and the Asian Table Tennis Championships possible. Thanks to the organisation of QTTA, the visit to the Villa Park Compound was unforgettable. I was happy to be with my compatriots and the laughter and happiness on their faces was priceless. Migration and displacement impact us greatly, especially those young children and I hope by being there as a role model, I was able to show them the strength we have as individuals and not to give up in times like this.” Behrooz Daneshmand, Afghanistan national team.

Shedding light on uncertain future

Welcomed by the evacuees in Villa Park Compound, the visit was far from a political gesture, yet a mission to elevate and inspire.

“It is in the uncertain time that we remember to always be the light. Despite the long journey ahead, the ITTF Group has been trying our best to relieve the struggles of those going through life-changing events through table tennis. The visit to the Villa Park Compound is a reminder of our responsibility, as well as our commitment to provide continuous support to the table tennis community in need.” Steve Dainton, ITTF Group CEO.

By bringing table tennis to Villa Park Compound, the visit allowed the evacuees a brisk moment to focus on the fun of the sport rather than the uncertainties ahead. Thanks to the generous donation of QTTA, Villa Park Compound is now equipped with top-notch table tennis tables and evacuees may enjoy some table tennis fun with the equipment donated by ITTF Foundation.

“This is what the ITTF Foundation is about. We have a long way to go in our pursuit of peace and equality, but the immediate support for those living in Villa Park Compound needed to happen fast. We are happy to have the Afghanistan national team play table tennis with the children in the compound. They are great role models and table tennis brings joy, both are crucial for keeping the spirit up in difficult times like this.” Petra Sörling, the ITTF Foundation Board of Trustees, ITTF Vice President.

The fun escalated when former Manchester United and England football legend David Beckham visited the compound. The footballer turned celebrity was seen playing table tennis with children at Villa Park Compound, and later a few friendly matches against Khalil Al-Mohannadi and Petra Sörling. It has been proven that Beckham was not only a star on the football pitch, but also a worthy competitor across a table tennis table.

Also joining the visit was Sajad Mohammed Baqir Al Lawati from Qatar Foundation, ITTF Secretary General Raul Calín, ITTF Member Relations Director Mounir Bessah, High Performance and Development Director Polona Cehovin, and ITTF Foundation Director Leandro Olvech.

“The motto of the ITTF Foundation is solidarity through table tennis. Supporting the table tennis community, especially players from conflicted areas is a priority for us. We want to ensure those players are being treated fairly and have the opportunity to represent their country. We have witnessed beautiful friendship being formed between Afghan athletes and children in Villa Park Compound. It is a unique and precious bond that connects people with similar experience and struggles, but also fuels the hope for a better future.” Leandro Olvech, ITTF Foundation Director.

General News ITTF Foundation