Atoum savours huge opportunity at Challenger Plus

Muscat, March 20 – Oman’s national table tennis coach Mohammed Atoum feels the Seamaster ITTF Challenge Plus Oman Open is a great opportunity for the Omani players to learn and hone their skills. The ITTF Challenge Plus Oman Open that is currently under way at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex is the biggest table tennis tournament to be hosted in Oman. “It is one of the most important events of the ITTF calendar, its a new event ITTF Challenge Plus. This is the first time for Oman. Here you can see good players from around the world including India, China, Europe. Some top 25 players as well, that is very good. You cannot say who will win, some players even though they don’t have good ranking, they are very competitive,’’ Oman’s coach Atoum stated.
With four Omani players in the mix, Atoum felt it was a golden opportunity to learn from some of the better players in the world.
“We have to be very realistic. We have to know where we are. Now we are concentrating on players from the grassroot level. We had an Under-12 player who did well in Bahrain, and also in the U-15s. This is the first step, we have to do more. We now have some good players developing. We can increase our players’ experience in this tournament. It is a really good experience for players to observe and learn,’’ he added.
Atoum stated the main focus of the Oman TT squad would be on Arab championships.
“They know the target which is to compete in the Arab championship. We will compete at the World table tennis championships in April as well. We will also take part at the Arab club championship. We have to learn as much as we can,’’ stressed Atoum.
Talking about the aspects that Omani players need to work on to take their game to the next level, Atoum was forthright.
“How much you practice is very important. Since we are not professional here because of exams and work, it is difficult to practice regularly. Our new generation will be much better,’’ Atoum stated.
The lack of professional players certainly affects Oman’s prospects at the international circuit but Atoum did not see a change in that from the present lot.
“Among seniors, I don’t see them becoming professional. It is too late.
For example, Indian players start playing at a young age, at 5 or 6 years. It is not so easy in Arab countries,’’ he added.
However, Atoum observed that there is definite potential in the upcoming young crop of Omani players.
“There are some good U-12 players. One of our U-12 players Ahmed al Riyami got an invitation to play for Ahli Club in Egypt. When the Egypt coach came here, he saw Ahmed’s performance and also at the Arab championship in Egypt. The coach was impressed and had a chat with me. I told him if he plays for one week, it is ok otherwise it is difficult because of attending school,’’ he said.
Atoum, who is from Jordan, has been with the Oman table tennis set-up for three years now. The coach feels it is tough being a coach in Oman.
“I think in Oman, no one can work alone. You need a big group to support you. You need clubs to work with you. But now it is better, now we are moving and progressing. We are not going too fast and quick but gradually moving forward. There is a training agreement with clubs, so that is good. Within 4-5 years, we will be in a much better place,’’ he added.
Atoum felt foreign exposure was important for Omani players and they have been getting that from time to time.
“Last year we had gone to Qatar, before that to China. This year for 25 days we will be going to China,’’ he added.
The coach stated this tournament is hopefully just the beginning for more major events to come to Oman.
“Oman has covered all the requirements of the ITTF. So, I feel this is just the beginning. Since we are hosting this major event, we will have some big advantages for the future,’’ Atoum stated.