Chair of the Falkland Islands Table Tennis Association is Cecil Alexander, a man with a mission, the avowed goal to promote the sport of table tennis in one of the less accessible parts of the world.
Plans are in place to stage national tournaments in a bid to identify talented players who can progress to compete at international level.
Cecil Alexander spoke to Olalekan Okusan, the ITTF Member Relations Press Officer.
“The Falkland Islands has a population of 3,000 people, most live in the capital, Stanley, a couple hundred are spread over the rest of the country in farming communities.
A table tennis club started some years ago, being revived in January 2019 by Mark Nightingale, the sports development officer at the time, and me. The local leisure centre had two tables which were used for table tennis club nights, it is from where three players emerged to represent the country at the 2019 Island Games in Gibraltar.
However, the number of table tennis players in the islands continues to improve annually, efforts are geared toward the continuous growth of the sport.
We continue to invite people to club nights and tournaments, we use posts on our community social media page, local newspaper, and TV station to cover some of our events. We also aim to have our own Facebook page set up soon, while we also plan to have a junior programme.
The table tennis club has its own robot and two tables, some bats, and balls, the leisure centre also has two tables. The club night is organised on the squash court as it is difficult to find a slot in the sports hall. There is a new sports facility being built which will allow more room and accessibility to a bigger venue. There is the hope that this facility will be completed in 2023. We will need more tables once we have a bigger venue.
There has been a good uptake since the club night was revived in January 2019. Due to the small population and a huge variety of sports which are accessible to all, it is difficult to keep players and they easily switch between sports. Joining ITTF in 2021 brings access to international tournaments and development assistance. It is also about being recognised as a country and our independence.
We hope to get three athletes comprising two men and one para athlete accepted through the bipartite invitation system for the Commonwealth Games later this year in Birmingham. We have applied for membership to ITTF Americas. We have a national women’s and national men’s tournament. Also, we started a league and have a junior programme lined up for students between the ages 12 to 16 years of age.
Additionally, we plan to send a team of five players to the 2023 Guernsey Island Games, it hopefully be the first time we will be sending female players. We look forward to the development assistance from ITTF and, besides the Commonwealth Games, hopefully you will see us competing at international events in 2023.
However, in line with the ITTF ideal “Table Tennis for All, for Life”, efforts are geared toward promoting table tennis in the Islands, inspiring more players to embrace the sport.”