Feature: Iranian fans eagerly awaiting table tennis at Hangzhou Asian Games

(Xinhua) 13:17, September 12, 2023

TEHRAN, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- With less than half a month until the start of the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, Iranian table tennis fans said they were eagerly looking forward to watching the high-level matches and their favorite players during the multi-sport event.

On a hot summer's afternoon, soon after the trees' shadows had become tall enough to shield passersby against the scorching rays, enthusiasts began to show up at a partially enclosed area of the Mellat (Nation) Park in northern Tehran dotted with several table tennis tables.

They were from different walks of life and of diverse ages, ranging from children to the elderly, and brought with them special vivacity and joy and great energy as they entered the area, which was a good place of solitude allowing one to easily focus on losing themselves in a book a few hours earlier.

Minutes later, all the tables, which had been beds for cats' midday slumber earlier in the afternoon, became occupied by groups of two and four, who started warming up for their upcoming table tennis games.

In a country where people are mostly fans of football or wrestling, it was surprising to see so many people being interested in table tennis.

"I have been playing table tennis continuously for close to 20 years, as I am especially interested in the sport," said Gholamreza Moharrami, a tall and slim 64-year-old man, who said he had played a wide range of sports, from football and judo to wrestling.

"After I got older, and having undergone heart surgery, doing sports involving intense physical activities became a little bit difficult for me. Thus, I have started playing table tennis."

He added: "I very much like table tennis as it is a very exciting sport, allowing players to perform a wide variety of moves and maneuvers."

Moharrami said he was particularly interested in doubles table tennis and, along with his friends, he mostly played in the doubles format.

"A large number of the people interested in playing table tennis come to this place every day in the afternoon to play ping pong," he said, noting that "even professional players come here to play table tennis."

Moharrami added that he knew that table tennis was very popular in China and considered as the country's national sport. "The Chinese table tennis players have won a large number of world and Olympic medals and have a very high global ranking."

He added: "Like many other people who come here to play table tennis, I know a lot of Chinese table tennis players, such as the winner of the 2023 ITFF World Championships, Fan Zhendong, and the world's No. 3 in the men's singles, Ma Long."

Moharrami said he frequently watched table tennis matches on TV "to learn different techniques and moves".

"I am eagerly looking forward to the start of the Asian Games in Hangzhou to watch the table tennis matches, which will certainly have a very high level."

The opening ceremony of the Hangzhou Games will be held on September 23, with the table tennis matches starting at Gongshu Canal Sports Park Gymnasium the previous day.

Confident in his table tennis skills and full of energy, 17-year-old Amir-Sam Rahmani said: "I love table tennis, as my father used to be a member of Iran's national table tennis team and is now my coach."

"I watch a lot of table tennis matches on a daily basis, as I believe that 70 percent of learning how to play the sport depends on watching professional players. I know many professional Chinese table tennis players such as Ma Long, Xu Xin, Zhang Jike, Wang Hao and Fan Zhendong."

Rahmani said although table tennis matches were not normally broadcast live in Iran, "I do my best to watch them by any means."

He noted: "Table tennis is definitely my favorite sport. I will probably travel to China to watch the table tennis matches in Hangzhou in person and am eagerly looking forward to the start of the games."

Rahmani added he believed that table tennis was the world's best sport thanks to its characteristics and requirements. "The sport is medically very good for the brain."

35-year-old Mojtaba Safari, who seemed less infatuated with the sport compared to the other two, said: "I usually come here and play table tennis with my friends as the sport is very exciting and fun. I also do wrestling and play football."

"I will definitely watch the table tennis matches in Hangzhou."

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


Related Stories