Regional development events will be top of the agenda as 11 countries converge for the inaugural Africa Table Tennis Federation-Eastern region meeting on Saturday in Nairobi.
This will be the first meeting of its kind for the member federations since the regional table tennis body was formed in October 2016.
Kenya Table Tennis Federation president Andrew Mudibo, who was instrumental in its formation is also head of the regional federation and shed some light on the countries that will be represented.
Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and hosts Kenya will all be represented in Saturday’s meeting. Only Sudan and Comoros will not have a representative.
“It has been a long and difficult journey to even get to where we are. I am optimistic that the discussions will bear fruits as we target to make table tennis more popular in the region. The members have been very cooperative and there is also a sense of collective desire to see the sport grow in their respective countries,” Mudibo told SNA.
Mudibo revealed that focus will be placed on establishing more regional tournaments for the players to gain valuable game-time experience and compete with others.
Also the regional representatives are expected to set up systems that will help in scouting and identifying of young talent, sourcing for funds and acquiring more playing equipment in region.
A comprehensive training program for both officials and players is also on their agenda.
ITTF, which has sanctioned and endorsed the meeting, will be briefed on the progress before giving the final directive based on the matters discussed.
Focus on the youth abd schools
KTTA has set up strategic plans over the last couple of years geared towards growth of the sport in Kenya. In September 2015, the launch of “Tucheze Tebo” initiative subsequently boosted its growth by focus being placed on the youth and schools.
KTTA has been a present figure during county, national and regional secondary school games to support the players since 2014.
Currently, KTTA has 22 certified umpires (Level one) that handle their matches and tournaments, three of which have international certification from ITTF. They are Robert Kibati, George Onzere and Mudibo.
To ensure efficiency in officiating, KTTA has made it mandatory that the umpires must officiate in at least eight tournaments in a calendar year for them to maintain their certification status.
KTTA has ensured that all the coaches receive certification that is valid for only two years so that they take refresher courses to be in line with developmental changes in coaching tactics and rules.
There are 18 certified coaches. Daim Fahd and Tom Amumi have Level one ITTF certification.
“We want to ensure that we have more coaches and umpires trained and certified as the number is good but we could improve on that. Having them go through the courses makes them more professional and it will passed down to players during matches and training,” Mudibo explained.
Peter Theuri and Michael Kuria have been prime examples of beneficiaries of such programmes. In 2016, Theuri got a chance to a chance to attend a three-month coaching programme in France.
Kuria on the other hand was sponsored by KTTA to attend an ITTF umpiring course as a result of which he secured a scholarship for a six month coaching programme at Leipzig University, Germany.
To sensitize people on the sport, KTTA has partnered up with Mathare Youth Sports Association, Ping Sans Frontiers and Sports For Tomorrow to help in identifying and nurturing young talent.
They jointly hosted a County Level one seminar at Goan Institute that had over 30 representatives from different counties in attendance to make the sport gain grassroots support.
Structured national league
Another key pillar of their growth has been the national league. It has been structured into legs held on a rotational basis in different counties so that there is awareness and diversity.
Previous legs have been held in Makini School, YMCA Nyeri, Nakuru’s Menengai School, St. Monica Kitale and Kenyatta University among others where the sessions have been also open to the public and interested players.
KTTF has also engaged various county governments notably Kiambu County that has both men’s and women’s teams enlisted the national league.
Also it has been in close ties with Kenya University Sports Association where some top institutions are also in their league.
They include Strathmore University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology, Technical University and Kenyatta University.