Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ping pong in Africa

I hope you all had a lovely weekend. I did :).

So I was catching up on some ITTF news, and last week, the African Seniors Cup took place in Nigeria. It's always a little bit weird to think of table tennis in countries outside of Asia or Western Europe, but table tennis exists everywhere! It truly is a global sport. While I was training in China a few summers ago, I met Egyptian, Sri Lankan, Indian (okay, India and Sri Lanka are technically in Asia, but you know what I mean), Ukrainian, and Polish players. Pretty crazy, eh?

Anyway, as I was saying, the African Seniors Cup went down last week. And the interesting thing about the tournament was that a Chinese Congo-Brazzaville woman named Yang Fen won the Women's event. A Chinese Congo-Brazzaville table tennis player. Crazy. Sorry if I sound ignorant--I don't know very much about Africa--but I didn't even know that Chinese people lived in Congo-Brazzaville. Yang Fen is currently ranked #250 in the world women's rankings and is ranked #1 in the continent of Africa. She is going to represent Africa and Congo-Brazzaville at the 2008 Olympics.

So the thing that caught my attention was the words "African Seniors Cup" and the accompanying picture of a Chinese girl with poofy hair and her coach (pictured above). Chinese ping pong players are notorious for leaving China after years of table tennis training, moving to other countries (Canada, USA, Austria, Singapore, Hong Kong), and replacing those countries own homegrown players as the top players. Now, being a homegrown American table tennis player myself, I know how the feeling of having absolutely no hope of becoming a top top table tennis player, even in the US, which does not do very well in international events. It does stink to have any good foreign player (now I'm not just talking about Chinese players; I'm also talking about Europeans) come in and sit at the top of the rankings and on the national teams.

HOWEVER, I think that so many people are taking the wrong attitude in how to solve this problem. I've heard people complain about how Chinese players are "taking over" the sport, as if it were some disease or something. The solution is not to complain and impose bans and restrictions. Instead the fact that Chinese players can just come into your country and defeat your homegrown players is just a wake up call to every country that its table tennis associations need to start from within and develop its own players. Each country needs to invest in itself and find ways to catch up to and compete with China. The beauty of the freedom of movement is the exchange of ideas and skills. It's about the spirit of competition, and the last time I checked, whining wasn't part of it.

Anyway, this is not a response to any specific person or current event; it's just a general reaction to the things I've heard and seen in the past years. Please feel free to leave any comments. And thanks for reading :).


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Post. I believe the tournament was held in Cong itself. But yea the chinese lady is an abnormaly.

I wanna get to the bottom of how she ended up representing an African Country. Not to say there's anything wrong with it. I'm just curious.


Thanks for the Post.

Cincinnati Mills said...

Interesting information you shared. Good post and great blog! Thanks for sharing the blog.