Table tennis in India is better recognized as an indoor recreational sport – extremely popular in Bengal, Assam, Maharashtra, Gujarat. On competitive front the nation has produced Olympians, but not champions. There is representation in global events but no laurels or medals. There have been stars, but not icons. The sport has mass participation in certain geographical territories in the country, but not a mass base of fans.
Amidst this scenario, 11 Even Sport has come up with a commercial vision “with the potential to take the sport in the country to the next level”. The company is all set to give India its first TT league – from 13 July to 30 July, 2017.
The beginning for the commercial venture was challenging, but now there are top corporate as franchisees, STAR network as broadcaster and three cities to host the club-based six-team league. 11 Even Sports Chairperson, the entrepreneur and one of the brains behind the league, in an EXCLUSIVE interaction with Insidesport.co exudes confidence that the success of their commercial venture will give Indian table tennis much-needed global recognition. Here are the excerpts:
InsideSport: IS: A sport needs icons, its own brands ambassadors to survive and thrive commercially. Something like, Saina and Sindhu for badminton. What will be the USP to market the Ultimate Table Tennis League? Best ever global ranking for an Indian TT player has been 32, there is no Indian among top 50 now.
VD: Ultimate Table Tennis will have the 24 of the best Indians and 24 world class international players. The biggest strength of the league is the talent pool. Indian fans will get to see a mix of Indian and international talent like never before. New local and international stars emerge during the tournament.
IS: Please share with us about your association with TT?
VD: You know everybody anywhere in the world has played TT at some point in their life. It is a hugely popular sport with plenty of potential in India. We at Eleven Sports Private Limited are committed to make TT a mainstream sport and the start of Ultimate Table Tennis League will be the big step in that quest.
IS: How are you involved with the day to day affairs of TTFI?
VD: Eleven Sports Private Limited has a ten-year agreement with TTFI to develop the sport from the grassroots to the professional level. We are thankful for TTFI’s continuous support.
IS: How table tennis is going to be different than other leagues in the country?
VD: Unlike other sports leagues, UTTL will create a big club rivalry from year one because the format puts emphasis more on competition between clubs rather than cities. Hence we have six club franchises competing over three legs in three different venues (Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai).
IS: What kind of a corporate interest and support do you see the league will generate?
VD: We are delighted with the response we have got from the corporates in the first season. Six well known corporates are ready to fight it out from July and have already shown a great competitive edge during the recently concluded coach draft.
IS: In your opinion how will the league contribute to the sport in the country?
VD: I think UTT will enhance the process of taking the sport of table tennis to greater heights in the country. The mix of local and international players and local and international coaches will make for an exciting event. It will have world class telecast throughout the country and thus ensuring a fan engagement like never before for the sport in India. We look forward to a successful inaugural campaign.
The emphasis is on building a product and players for futures. The strong pool of coaches is thus created by 11 Even Sports. The likes of Dutch female national team coach Elena Timina, Former Portugal national team head coach Francisco Santos, former world champion finalist and ex-Serbian Olympic team coach Ilija Lupulesku, Feremnc Karsai with a past as Belgian, Canadian and Austrian national teams decorating his CV and former Dutch Head coach Peter Engel have been drafted in as coaches.