Revival of the National League highlight of a busy season

By samson ateka
Dec 25, 2016

Unlike previous seasons when the system depended on points-ranking tournaments for skill evaluation, the revival of the Kenya Table Tennis Association National League highlighted what turned out to be one of the busiest ping-pong seasons in recent times.

The league which has been inactive for many years was part of 'Tucheze Tebo' initiative the Association unveiled in November 2015 to transform the fortunes of the game in Kenya.

"One word sums it all up for Tucheze Tebo initiative, and that word is opportunities," said KenyaTTA President Andrew Mudibo, adding: "Lots of opportunities have been created for both players and those aspiring to be coaches. It's a significant progress that, to be honest, hasn't been seen in a long time."

The National League started off off at Makini School and in line with Kenya TTA's strategy to spread its tentacles countrywide, the competition traversed several parts of the country including "the home of women's TT" St Monica Girl's School.

The League, which resumes early next season also visited Nyeri, Mwala and Kenyatta University among other venues. The League saw a number of men's and women's teams emerge through the ranks.

The teams included Kenyatta University, JKUAT, Bunge, Glory Outreach, Nakuru, Strathmore University, Technical University of Kenya, Kitale, Kiambu and City TT team.

Junior development was a key ingredient to the success story of 2016 with KenyaTTA running a number of events countrywide including Nakuru, Kitale, Nyeri, Mombasa and Nairobi.

Some teams like Nakuru and Kitale fielded a 100 percent junior teams some of whom have given a good account of themselves.

Mathenge retires

Anthony Mathenge, the longstanding Kenyan international shocked all and sundry when he announced his retirement from the men's national team.

Mathenge who has represented Kenya in a number of Olympics qualifiers, Commonwealth and All Africa Games has literary swept the ground with all his opponents back home until he quit the big stage. Mathenge turns out for Team Kiambu in the Kenya National League.

In recognition of his illustrious career, KenyaTTA rewarded him with an appointment as the national women's team coach. Mathenge and multiple former Kenya champion Fahd Daim are among a battery of coaches that KenyaTTA has identified in various fields to help nurture you budding talent countrywide.

In another development, Kenya hosted the 2016 ITTF – Southern Africa Hopes Week & Challenge Tournament in March with two of Kenya's juniors qualifiers Will Wanje of Makini and Kitale's Ivy Makokha making it to the global Hopes' finals in Doha.

The 2016 ITTF – Southern Africa Hopes Week & Challenge Tournament was held between March 26-31 at Goan Institute, Nairobi.

KenyaTTA partnered with the County government of Kiambu in May to deliver Kenya's most competitive and lucrative tournaments in recent times which attracted players from Uganda and Europe.

Thika International Open attracted the biggest entry witnessed in a long time and was officiated by France based ITTF referee Ronald Mugwanya.

No stranger

Mugwanya is no stranger to Kenyan table tennis having ran a regional level 1 course at Parklands Sports Club earlier in the year.

"Thika Open was a real cracker and an example of what happens at international level. Introducing aspects like racquet control was a true indication that Kenya is going international," Mudibo said.

KenyaTTA engaged in a full blown PR strategy which included rebranding its website, running real time updates on its social media platforms as well as reviving "The Loop" Magazine.

This was part of the Association's PR plan championed by the Media and Communications Department.

In February, the KenyaTTA signed a partnership with the Tsukuba International Academy for Sport Studies (TIAS) of Japan in an initiative that brought the sport closer to children from the poor areas of Nairobi’s sprawling Eastlands estate.

Under this program, Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) and KenyaTTA joined hands in promoting the sport with focus being on school going children especially girls aged between 10 and 12.

The initial target has been to first to develop the program in 16 regions, then open up the regions to 50 public schools.

The program is not just for talent identification and nurturing but it will aim to transform the lives of the girls and also the local society, where the girls come from, by involving the local community.

Prof. Satoshi Shimizu, who represented the University of Tsukuba, said that the table tennis program is a unique one and one that they are happy to be associated with through MYSA and KenyaTTA.

Elsewhere, KenyaTTA President Andrew Mudibo, was elected the President of region 2, where he heads a total of 14 African Countries.

Partnership with TT England

In November, KenyaTTA and Table Tennis England (TTE) entered into a partnership that will see Kenya benefit in governance and technical training from the United Kingdom.

TTE Chief Executive Sara Sutcliffe who conducted a stakeholders workshop at the Goan Gymkhana indicated that the partnership will see them second officials to the country to train local officials in clubs, Kenya TTA branches and Kenya TTA executive on management issues.

Again as part of Tucheze Tebo, the partnership is envisaged to help put in place structures for posterity in administration and coaching right from club to national level.

In December, Kenya hosted Africa's most decorated player Toriola Segun who conducted a weeklong training camp at Oshwal Sports Complex in Nairobi.

Three Kenyan players Alikhan Kazia, Wandera and Peter Theuri were the beneficiaries of an exchange programme in France where they spent weeks of training on separate occasions. Michael Kuria, a Kenyatta University student landed a scholarship through KenyaTTA to study coaching for six months at Lizing University in Germany.

Kuria also qualified as an ITTF International Umpire and will start officiating in major events round the world.

Kenya Table Tennis is definitely back on track and with the development structures that have been put in place by the KenyaTTA Executive the game is bound to spread to each and every corner of the republic.

Next year, 2017 promises to be an exciting year for the sport.