The Tamil Nadu Table Tennis Association (TNTTA) has availed of every possible platform to emphasise the message that it intends to promote the game in the districts.
So it came as a bit of a surprise when it was announced on Thursday that Erode and Vellore district associations would jointly host a State-ranking tournament in Chennai. In fact, never in the past decade has a district association conducted an event outside the district.
What has happened to TNTTA’s oft-repeated words of promoting the sport in the districts?
P. Ramesh, a TT coach instrumental in organising tournaments in Erode, says the reasons for the shift was due to lack of sponsorship and power failure in the district. “There is power shut down in Erode for nearly eight hours. We find it difficult to scout for sponsors; nobody is willing to part with money. Add to that there are no indoor stadiums in our district,” he said.
Ramesh said the Erode DTTA had conducted only three tournaments in the last 10 years as procuring tables from schools and colleges had become more difficult, asking for permission from college principals to hold a tournament on their premises even tougher.
“It has become extremely difficult for us. That’s when the Erode DTTA and the Vellore DTTA decided to organise the tournament in Chennai. TNTTA readily agreed,” said Ramesh.
Generally, Erode conducts State-ranking tournaments at three venues — Sengundar Engineering College, SSM Engineering College and Mayura Hotel. “If I get a similar infrastructure like Chennai, I will conduct tournaments regularly,” he said.
Ramesh agrees that a move like this is not good for the sport, but one he had to do out of compulsion.
Will this set a bad precedent where districts that can’t conduct a tournament come to Chennai to hold one? “No”, said Christopher Anas, Lords TT Academy’s chief coach. Anas insists there is no reason to panic. “It’s a win-win situation for Erode as many players (nearly 80-85 per cent are from the city) and officials as they don’t have to travel all the way,” he argues.
As J. Selvakumar, Joint Secretary, TNTTA, said, “When a district association admits that it is finding it difficult to conduct a tournament, it’s our duty to help them and that’s what we have done. TNTTA has always been keen to promote TT in districts.”
Erode’s decision to move the tournament to Chennai is certainly a setback for the sport in the long run. It’s the responsibility of TNTTA to improve infrastructure in districts, promote players and strengthen the grassroots.