Interview with Seychelles Table Tenis Association chairman Francis Remie | 04 June 2020
‘We want to promote table tennis as a safe sport’
Long-serving chairman of the Seychelles Table Tennis Association Francis Remie has told Sports NATION that their aim is to promote this sport as a safe leisure sport in this post COVID-19 era.
Chairman Remie said that they are preparing to return to training next week as they target getting back to competition in the near future after having discussed with his executive committee their plan for the remainder of the season.
Restarting the season
In fact, the table tennis season had served off in early March as they had a busy calendar for this year where they had managed to organise their curtain-raiser competition which was won by their two top local players, namely Godfrey Sultan and Anniessa Benstrong.
“We have had to relook at our calendar and the executive committee met last week to plan for the rest of the year and we hope to organise our annual general meeting soon as we hope to begin training on Monday at the Omnisports Gym, Roche Caïman under strict guidelines to ensure social distancing is maintained at all times in this new normal period. Our competition is scheduled to serve off next month,” chairman Remie explained to Sports NATION.
Mr Remie added that as a result of health precautions, they envisage to have a maximum of 12 players per session in the gym at Roche Caïman which therefore necessitates a new schedule for the different age groups with different training times which they have organised and will come into effect once the gym reopens next week.
New league format
The Seychelles Table Tennis Association (STTA) chairman also revealed that they are re-organising the format of their competitions especially the popular Monthly Challenge for the three divisions as they now want to organise it every fortnight and during the week to ensure more competitions to make up for the three months that the players have been out of action due to the suspension of all sports activities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic locally and across the globe.
International competitions ban
However, the STTA chairman was a bit disappointed that the ban on all international competitions has affected his sport quite a lot as they had planned for a busy year with participation in a number of events as well as hosting of a top competition which has had to be cancelled as a consequence of the ban by the health department on all international travels and sporting competitions in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“We had been given the responsibility to host the Zone Five under 18 championships in August this year where we would have seen the participation of players from 14 countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Mauritius to name a few, but we have been advised to cancel it even if we had received funding for this competition. Now we have had to return the finance due to the budget cuts and we were also supposed to participate in the African Championship where our number one male player Godfrey Sultan had qualified in the top 16. We had also earmarked numerous other competitions for our youngsters to take part in but all have been postponed in what is going to be a very short season for our players,” remarked chairman Remie.
Nonetheless, chairman Remie pointed out that they will stay focused on youth development where they have set up the necessary structures to encourage more youngsters to join the sport.
“We want to decentralise and go into schools to encourage more young people to take up table tennis and we plan to hold Saturday classes where the youngsters will work with our national coach Janice Mellie and his assistant Peter Youpa as we target to produce our future stars in eight years’ time,” noted chairman Remie.
He also stated that the players had really benefited from the expertise of top international coach, Pakistani Aris Khan who was here for six months last year to prepare them for the 10th Indian Ocean Islands Games which took place in Mauritius.
The STTA boss also laid emphasis on the need to encourage more girls to take up this sport for its future and said that this will also be their focus in their youth development programme for the coming years.
“We aim to launch a campaign of talent detection and that is why we are branching out across the country to target mainly girls as at the moment we have quite a large group of boys but we need more girls and we will even try to encourage them through physical education (PE) lessons in schools,” claimed chairman Remie.
Table tennis as a safe sport
Mr Remie says that his federation though is geared towards promoting his sport as a safe sport especially for adults who are a bit reluctant to engage in outdoor sports in fear of the COVID-19 and of contracting it in the community.
“We can easily practice social distancing in our sport and we are encouraging adults who want to take up this sport as a form of exercise and a leisure sport to come to our gym and they just need to register and make a small contribution which will be a sort of fund raising for our sport. But we will also teach them how to play which will be a form of keep fit exercise in itself,” related chairman Remie.
The STTA chairman noted that despite all the difficulties of the year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, he is looking forward to a good season where they hope to attract more participants.
“Last year we had a good season though we did not manage any medals at the Indian Ocean Islands Games, but we hope to have a satisfying year where we see more people joining our sport though we have to ensure health and safety as our top priority at all times,” Mr Remie said in conclusion.