Sports Interconnect People

Photo: ITTF Foundation Dream Building with Refugees, Za'atari Camp, Jordan.

 

The ITTF Foundation has launched a series of training in two refugee establishments in Leipzig, Germany. The eight-week training session is the pilot of a potential long-term project aiming to bring fun and physical activities to those seeking safety in a country that they have not yet called home.

*We use they/them/their on this story to maintain anonymity

Today marks the annual celebration of International Youth Day 2022. We celebrate this year’s International Youth Day by spotlighting one story of young people about the training programme, which was launched in June 2022. Sarah Falczyk, Table Tennis for Refugees Intern, conducted the interview in one of the establishments. She organises and manages the project in two refugee establishments and creates a training manual for using table tennis for integration. This training programme consists of a 90-minute exercise per week where all people, regardless of their nationality, gender identity or expression, ability, and age, can join the session. For them, not only do sports maintain their health, but they also strengthen the interconnection between people.  

Apart from the fact that sports maintain fit, sports interconnect people. So, I think that one of the most important benefits is, apart from that, mental health. That's the first thing that comes to mind when doing sports with people.

Table tennis brings them closer because they can talk, share experiences, and laugh while playing. During the 90-minute session, they do various activities, such as competitive and collaborative games. These games have various benefits and are applicable for all ages, even for people with disabilities. Some games require teamwork to solve challenging tasks. Therefore, around 20-30 people gather in every training session in one big establishment and take turns playing table tennis. It is not surprising, they said, table tennis is one of the most popular sports there.

But when you play ping pong, there is another style of interconnecting people. Ping pong, I think, interconnects people in another way totally different than other sports, because as you can see, ping pong tables are very…. You and your opponent are very close to yourselves… to each other, and you're playing, but at the same time, you are talking, you are sharing experiences. We, for example, in my case, were always laughing. We're always having fun. So, it's beautiful because you think you're sharing lots of good experiences and you're actually having a good time because this is just like a short time at the end of the day. And you realise that it makes time goes faster, you know? But that's beautiful for me. Ping pong is a very, very beautiful sport. It's a beautiful way to spend time with people.

People increasingly use sports to promote integration because sports foster respect for all competitors, regardless of nationality or language. Sarah calls for every player to shake hands after the game to encourage fair play. In addition to the general ones, they must utter German words before striking, allowing them to practice their German language skills while competing. Considering they reside in refugee establishments where there is no common language.

Yeah, I think a lot, actually. A lot because I was like a few minutes ago thinking that, well, on this table I met lots of friends and on this table, I said goodbye to lots of friends. It's amazing. Because, you know, this is one of the central points in this sort of camp where refugees stay. All refugees are reuniting in this place. And so, we feel that we were cutting edges. It doesn't matter where you are from. What's your religion, what's your nationality? So, you start to see that you've got more similarities than differences, which is beautiful.

ITTF Foundation supports using table tennis to facilitate the integration process, creating beneficial effects in society. We call out to all ITTF Member Associations and the worldwide table tennis community to support the solidarity of those taking refuge in a foreign land due to all current and past warfare.
 
Together, we are stronger.

 

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