… Fleidl shares his passion and drive to see sport code rise
By John Tuerijama
ALTHOUGH table tennis is relatively an insignificant code, compared to other indoor sports in the country, Namibian Open and 2017 Masters Cup winner, Heiko Fleidl, believes that if enough funds are injected into the sport, its fortunes will rise.
Fleidl, who has for the past six years represented Namibia at international competitions, said that currently, table tennis is not as visible as football, rugby, cricket and hockey.
He said the sport is one of the best administered codes in the country, and that its membership is increasing gradually.
He added that the sport, like many other indoor sport codes, is unfortunately not as popular as the outdoor ones.
“Community involvement is limited, in terms of the number of people playing the sport. We need to change the mindset of people, towards the sport. It is a modern sport and the attraction in Africa is there, especially in the northern parts of the continent,” said Fleidl. Fleidl, a former chairperson of the Namibia Table Tennis Association (NTTA), said that the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 could best be described as the weakest confederation in Africa. The AUSC Region 5 includes Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia.
This is, he says, due to the fact that the best playing nations in the world are in Europe and North African countries, which enjoy the most opportunities.
“The sport has the potential and can be played by young and old. It is a very affordable sport, in terms of equipment, and is an easy sport to play and enjoy. All that is needed is a table and a net to play,” Fleidl said. The 32-year-old table tennis sensation is arguably Namibia’s top table tennis player, who started playing the sport at the tender age of ten. “Having played the sport for the past 22 years, I have really never stopped playing table tennis, and once you start playing you will never stop,” said Fleidl. “We have table tennis players in their 70s still competing, as well as some top female and junior players, who play very well.” Fleidl believes that there are young players who need to be groomed and developed. In 2007, the passionate table tennis player received a priceless opportunity to complete his studies at Fachhochschule Kärnten in Austria, after studying for three years at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), which was then called the Polytechnic of Namibia.
“Austria opened my eyes to the potential of the sport. The leading table tennis playing nations in Southern Africa are Angola, Botswana and South Africa, while Namibia is fourth in terms of strength. I played table tennis on a daily basis and that has helped me a lot during the competitions, and while in Namibia I apply what I learned in Austria,” Fleidl said. He said that Namibia aims to finish third overall at the upcoming AUSC Region 5 African competition, to be hosted by Botswana in December. The country will be fielding men and women teams of four players each and trials are scheduled for next month. Fleidl is a junior associate at Windhoek Consulting Engineers (WCE) and plays for the Sport Klub Windhoek (SKW) Table Tennis Club, which won the club championships in 2016. He has also represented the NTTA in various capacities, from chairperson to secretary. He represented Namibia at an international competition held in Dortmund, Germany in 2012. The table tennis fanatic described the level of the competition globally as very high, with Namibia having competed against the likes of Sri Lanka and Zambia. “We managed to win one match against Zambia, in the team world championships, although we experienced a tough time,” he recalled. He said the national table tennis team has also competed at international events in Paris, France and in Tokyo, Japan in 2014, in the team world championships, where they managed to beat Guam. The NTTA has called on aspiring table tennis players to contact it via its website or on Facebook.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015