Table tennis will join the ranks of cricket, football, badminton and kabaddi, when the inaugural Ultimate Ping Pong Championship gets underway, come July.
According to a Times of India report, a total of six teams will vie for top honours in the competition that will be conducted between 13th and 30th July across three cities. The franchise-based league will be promoted by 11Even Sports (ESPL), the Mumbai-based company, which has entered into a 10-year-agreement with the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) to develop and promote the sport in the country.
The promoters have identified two cities – Delhi and Mumbai – but are yet to zero in on the third. Bengaluru and Chennai, however, are strong contenders to occupy that spot. A total of 15 league games, a couple of semifinals and the final will be played during the 18day event.
The tournament will carry a prize money of 3 crore and ESPL is keen on signing up as many players as possible from the top 50 in the world. As per the format, a total of 48 players -24 men and an equal number of women -will be signed up for the league. Twenty four of them will be from India and the rest from abroad. To promote youngsters, every team will have to compulsorily field a U-21 player.
“Through Ultimate Ping Pong Championship, we are embarking on an exciting journey of transforming table tennis from being largely a recreational activity in India to a mainstream sport,” Vita Dani, chairperson, ESPL, told TOI on Thursday.
“The success of the recently concluded ITTF World Tour India Open in Delhi gives us the confidence for creating a compact and permanent fixture in the international calendar window for an Indian origin world level event. We are working on adding a few innovative concepts which would bring in audience excitement and newer challenge to the participants,” she added.