NEW DELHI: A little over three months remain ahead of the first World Olympic qualification event for table tennis. And most disturbing is the situation with India’s national team coach.
While Table tennis Federation of India (TTFI) is adamant that Dejan Papic, believed to have signed a contract in July, will be coming down in November, the Canadian has denied the claim. “He is recuperating. He’s informed us he will be here in November. The boys will get a couple of months under him before the qualifiers,” a TTFI official said.
But Papic, who underwent a cartilage replacement procedure on his knee in August, said he has already informed TTFI they should hire someone else. “When I received the contract in July, I had already spoken to doctors about this procedure and booked everything. It was a costly procedure and I informed TTFI at that stage, they should hire somebody who can start working with the players immediately,” Papic said from Canada.
The contract letter landed in July, after initial talks last November. This confusion and delay led to Papic scheduling the operation in August. “TTFI was really helpful and I thought I would join at the beginning of the year. My knee has been bothering me for a while now. I had thought if I reach India in January, I would postpone the procedure till after the Olympics. But when administrative delays due to elections happened, there was a period of no communication. I did not receive the contract, so finally I decided to go for surgery.”
He revealed that he never signed the contract that came his way in July and only agreed to terms verbally with TTFI and SAI. He had asked for certain information on player pool, coaching camp, and also wanted certain assurances on the manner of working, none of which was mentioned in the contract.
His recovery has been taking longer than expected and the crutches will be off only in November. While TTFI has proposed that Papic comes over, the former ITTF development officer said it will not be of any help. “I will be more of a burden. Coaching, travelling everything will be disrupted. If in the future anything comes up, I will be happy. I thank TTFI and SAI for approaching me but for now, it’s best if a new coach is hired.”
While officials are trying to hire former Germany coach Joerg Bitzigeio, his current employers (USA) are unwilling to let him go so close to the Olympics. The German has tendered his resignation which has not been accepted. With less than 10 months left for Olympics, finding a replacement will not be easy.