Thursday, September 5, 2019

Table Tennis in Palestine

Issam Khalidi
    Table tennis in Palestine was practiced by some Arab and Jewish clubs, in addition to the YMCA in Jerusalem (that held few tournaments in table tennis) and some British army teams. In contrary to tennis, table tennis was not popular among British clubs such as the Jerusalem SC and the Cercle Sportife in Jaffa.  In Jerusalem there was a league for table tennis where the Y.M.C.A. took part. 
   Filastin reported that the athletic committee of the Orthodox Club in Jaffa held a table tennis tournament in which twenty players from the club took part. Mousa Falaha won a silver cup for the first place. The paper added:
“We hope the club’s [athletic] committee will persist organizing such meetings that will find a strong youth with strong bodies.” [1]
As a reaction to the Zionist domination in the sports arena and the marginalization of the Arabs from the Palestine Football Association (established in 1928 by the Zionists), some Arab young men established the Arab Palestine Sports Federation APSF in 1931, it stopped functioning at the end of 1930s. In September 1944 it was re-established and continued functioning until late 1947. Its re-establishment was a turning point in Palestinian sports.

    In March 1938 Palestine Sports Federation organized a championship in table tennis that took place in the Qawmi (National) Sports Club (founded in 1926 as Islamic SC, the name was changed in late 1930s to Qawmi SC until early 1940s) in Jaffa. Few Arab clubs took part: the Qawmi SC, Arab Scout club in Haifa, Arab Sports Club in Jerusalem. Arab SC won this championship and received the cup from Mr. Jawdat Bibi – Director of the Arab Bank in Jaffa and a member of the Palestinian Sports Federation. The referee was the athlete and sports activist Attallah Eqdees.[2]
The Federation of Table Tennis was included in the – Zionist-dominated - Federation of Amateur Sports Clubs in Palestine FASCP (established in 1931), which body was affiliated to the Federation of Table Tennis.
In April 1941 Palestine Post reported that “after having been in abeyance for a couple of years, the competition for the Y.M.C.A. Table Tennis Cup and Medals was played off this week and won by Hapoel, the holders of the trophy.” [3]

    After the re-establishment of the Arab Palestine Sports Federation district committees (Jerusalem, Jaffa, Gaza, Nablus, Haifa and the Galilee) were established immediately and sub-committees for all sports, including the Committee of Table Tennis Committee. This committee was organized by Espero Eqdees, Ibrahim Nusseibeh Hazem Nusseibeh, Albert Abila and Rock Farraj. A tournament in table tennis was scheduled to take place in March  1946 for districts (Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, Gaza, Nablus and Galilee), in order to determine the champion of each district. A general individual tournament was scheduled to take place. [4]

   In January 1945, few clubs in Haifa took part in a tournament: Islamic SC, Homentmen [Armenian], Orthodox Club, Salisi (Salesian), Carmel SC, Catholic Club and Shabab Al-Arab. [5]

    Filastin reported about a match in table tennis between the Orthodox Club in Jaffa and the team of the Youth Institute in Ramla. [6]  Also, it reported about a match in table tennis that was held in the hall of the Orthodox Club between the team of this club and an army team in Jaffa district. [7]
It’s worth noting that Arab women practiced table tennis in some (Christian) clubs such as Orthodox clubs in Jaffa and Haifa.

    Palestine took part in the World Table Tennis championships for the Swaythling Cup (Men) and Marcel Corbillon Cup (Women opened in Paris on Friday last and in the 1st. round Palestine lost to Ireland by 5 to 4. Palestine Post reported that there were no Palestinian representatives in the Women’s championships that time. Both events were being played in a series of ‘round robin’ tournaments in which each country met every other nation. [8] However, only Jewish players took part. The Arabs were not aware about the competitions and participations that the Federation of Amateur Sports Clubs in Palestine had been organizing because of the marginalization of the former and the domination of the latter.

   In 1962, the Palestinian Sports Federation founded in the Gaza Strip. Immediately, the Federation formed committees for different sports. These Federation submitted applications for membership in international federations, some of which were rejected and others were given temporary membership under the pretext that the Gaza Strip is not a state; that it was a “territory” under the Egyptian administration. However, the federation of table tennis which was founded in 1965 was admitted in that year in its respective International Table Tennis Federation.
In 1966 Palestine in the Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO) and won the 3rd place. [9] In 1967 it participated in the table tennis World Table Tennis Championship in Sweden and finished 33 out of 71. Palestine table tennis teams took part since 1960s in the Pan Arab Games.

  In 1969, the Supreme Council for Youth Care SCYC was formed in Amman Jordan. It established different federation for various sports including table tennis. In 1970 SCYC was moved from Amman to Beirut. Its first conference was held in 1974. The name was changed to the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports.[10]
The activities of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports in Lebanon ceased in 1994 on the orders of the Executive Office, which moved to Gaza after the establishment of Palestinian Authority.[11]

Palestine participated in the first Asian Championship in China in 1972. The team was led by the sports activist Elie Kubli, who was chairman of the SCYC. The coach was Wasif Haddad – a former table tennis player, a champion (in early 1960s) and a coach of table tennis and tennis in the American University in Beirut. Table tennis was included in the federation of racquet games (included tennis squash and golf).

   In the West Bank the number of clubs before January 1982 exceeded sixty-one. Most of these clubs joined the Association of Clubs Rabitat Al-Andiyah (established in 1975) which functioned as a ministry of sports. It had a major impact on promoting and institutionalizing this game.[12] The committee of table tennis was composed of Tonny Abboud, Khalid al-Sayyed, Rasim Younis, Ma'in Hafez and Ameed al-Masri. Abboud is considered to be one of the pioneers in promoting this game. He was one of the organizers of the first, second and third tournament of table tennis which were held in the West Bank in 1984, 1985 and 1986. He also took part as a referee at these and other tournament. 
 Table tennis took place in the Rabita's activities. The first single tournament was held in 1984 where 99 players (members of 26 clubs) took part. Hanna Ardakian (YMCA - East-Jerusalem) won the cup. Ahmed al-Minawi (E’bal - Nablus) in the second place, and Aiman Tuqan in the third place. The second single tournament was 1985. Fifty-five players took part. Hanna Ardakian (YMCA) defeated Ahmad Minawi (E’bal).  The third championship was held in 1986 when 76 players took part. Saleh Kana'an (Islamic SC of Bethlehem) defeated Aham Minawi. Hanna Ardakian got the fourth place.  [13]


[1] Filastin, 21 January 1931.
[2] Al-Difa’, 27 March 1938.
[3] Palestine Post, 30 April 1941.
[4] Filastin, 3 March 1946
[5] Al-Difa’, 19 January 1945
[6] Filastin, 7 April 1946.
[7] Filastin, 6 October 1946
[8] Palestine Post, 2 March 1946.
[10] Khalid Ejjawi, Al-Haraka al-Riyadiayya al-Falastiniyya fi al-Shatat, Palestine Sports Movement in Diaspora, (Damascus: al-Dar al-Wataniyya al-Jadida, 2002), 485.
[11] Khalid Ejjawi, al-Haraka al-Riyadiyya al-Falstiniyyafil-Shatat.
[12] Rasim Younis, al-Haraka al-Riyadiyya fi al-Dhiffa al-Gharbiyya. Sports Movement in the West Bank, (Nablus: Hijjawi Press, 1992), p. 325
[13] Rasim Younis.

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