As the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals unfolds on African soil, the unsung heroes of the tournament continue working tirelessly behind the scenes. Dedicating their time and energy to ensure the smooth operation of the event, they are the volunteers but also the soul of the event.
From accreditation to media, protocol to ball kids, these volunteers play an indispensable role, some of whom have travelled hundreds of miles from different corners of the continent to contribute their expertise and passion to this historic tournament, the first time it has been held on African soil in 84 years.
Juane’ Scholtz, a ball kid from Pretoria, says, “For me, being a ball kid means being close to the action and supporting the players. It’s an honour to be part of this prestigious event and witness world-class table tennis first-hand. I know that the effort we put in will make a difference in the overall success of the tournament, and I hope that the world will get to see how friendly and hospitable we Africans really are.”
These volunteers, driven by their unwavering love for the sport, understand the importance of their roles in putting Africa on the global table tennis map.
Tiffany Adams, an accreditation volunteer from East London, shares, “It is absolutely astounding that the world championships is held in Africa after so many years and I want to be part of the team that helps to put Africa on the world map, showing the world that we are capable of hosting an event of this scale.” She added, “Hosting these championships will have its fair share of challenges, and although nothing will ever be 100%, I believe what is most important is the heart and soul that goes into organising it, and all of us volunteers are like family.”
The familial spirit and camaraderie amongst the volunteers make it an even more enjoyable experience for them.
Tswelelo Kololo, a protocol volunteer from Botswana, reiterates the importance of the world championships to her and the extent that she was willing to go to participate in this momentous event, saying, “I fell in love with table tennis ever since I was 12. This also presents a great opportunity to boost the economy for Africa, giving our hawkers the chance to enjoy more business by the tourists coming into our nation. I came all the way here from Botswana. I took a long car ride that took two days and a flight before I finally reached here. I have been enjoying my time here tremendously thus far.”
Kololo also stated her desire to see Africa conclude such a spectacular event on a high, emphasising that as volunteers of the event, the responsibility is partially theirs to deliver a great world championships. Fuelled by the desire to be part of the team, they help create lasting memories for players and spectators alike.
Lungisani Sinethemba Cele, a media volunteer from the host city, KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, expressed excitement at having fans and athletes from all over the world visit his hometown. He adds, “I have always been passionate about table tennis, it is not a sport that I engage in just for fun. Growing up in a single parent family, my mother is my mentor, and she motivates me to become a better person every single day. She also taught us that as a family, we must never leave anyone behind. Likewise, I have been extremely lucky to enjoy such a strong familial spirit amongst all the other volunteers too and I want to do my best for them, and for my nation too. I would say that the bunch of us are not just friends, but family too.”
Although challenges may arise during a championship of this magnitude, these dedicated volunteers remain focused on their common goal: to create unforgettable memories and provide a memorable experience for everyone within the table tennis community.
As the volunteers eagerly welcome the world, they are excited to showcase not only their sporting passion but also the rich culture and warm hospitality that the continent has to offer. Their hope is that every participant and spectator will leave with cherished memories and a deep appreciation for the vibrant spirit that defines table tennis in Africa.
Follow all the action from the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals Durban 2023 on our website and stay up to date with the full results, draws and match schedules. Obtain free photos for editorial use here. The last few remaining tickets for the event can be purchased on the official ticketing website. Join us in Durban and witness history in the making!