CHENNAI: In a boost to young paddlers, a top-of-the-line academy is set to come up at the premises of the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata in mid-August this year. In a firstof- its-kind move, the Sports Authority of India (SAI), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), for an initial period of eight years, with Coal India Limited (CIL) and Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI). Named Coal India-SAI National Table Tennis Academy, it will accommodate 48 (24 boys & 24 girls) residential trainees within the age group of 10 to 14 years.
While the boys will begin training when the academy opens on August 18, it will take another three months for the girls to join the programme. SAI will provide space for the centre and hostel within its Netaji Subhas Eastern Centre at SLS. Speaking to Express, MP Singh, TTFI secretary general, thanked CIL and SAI for taking a much-needed step, adding the federation will provide technical assistance and grant affiliation to trainees for national competitions.
“The CIL will also provide another Rs 3-4 crore annually to run the centre. SAI will see to it that trainees lack nothing. The TTFI will pick four Indian coaches and three from China. Support staff and sparring partners will be Indian initially but we’ll eventually get some from abroad. Kids will also be sent overseas for exposure,” Singh said. The academy will also provide schooling with provisions to monitor and supervise the trainees’ academic progress.
Even Kamlesh Mehta, the government- appointed national observer for table tennis, applauded the move, saying when such initiatives see the light of day, they can lead the way for other sports bodies to follow. “This MoU is exactly the kind of move that will benefit table tennis in the country. The only way to ensure youngsters improve is to provide top class infrastructure and facilities,” Mehta opined.