26-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency
Day 26, August 6 - André Damman Has 70 Years of Table Tennis Experience
“Serious efforts have been made to develop our sport all over the world.”
When and how did you get involved in table tennis and, later on, in the ITTF?
It was in the summer of 1944. Some activities were organised that year during the summer holidays at my school in Brussels, and amongst them table tennis.
I took part in them and so discovered our sport. As amongst the participants some of them were already playing in a club named La Palette, which was located not too far away from my home. A short time later it moved to another place, which was not even a five-minute walk from my home. So I joined that club and started to play there on a regular basis, two or three times a week.
Very soon I took part in team competitions and in individual tournaments and improved rather fast. After a couple of years I was playing at the highest national level in both the team and individual events.
Since you became involved in the ITTF, what positive changes have you seen?
A big effort to spread the popularity of our sport over the whole world is being made nowadays. It seems to have developed worldwide and all continents are now involved in this development.
Looking back at the fifteen years of Adham Sharara’s presidency, what are your thoughts about the evolution of the ITTF and the global perception of our sport?
The approach became more and more professional. Programs have been set up in order to get a qualitative and a quantitative development of our sport all over the world and especially in areas where it is not so widespread.
The ITTF was created, as were many other sports, under the leadership and initiative of British people and during a long period it did not evolve very much worldwide. At that time it was under the leadership of dedicated amateurs and popular only in restricted areas in the world. Under the present leadership, in particular by appointing professional people for crucial functions, serious efforts have been made to develop our sport all over the world.
There will still be a lot of work to do but, under the leadership of Adham Sharara, the ITTF seems to be taking the right direction.
Thank you, André. ITTF President Adham Sharara expressed his interest in including his appreciation for your many contributions over the years. This is from him:
Thank you, Sheri, for giving me the opportunity to write a few words about one of the great volunteers of the ITTF.
I first met André Damman when he was a coach of the Belgian National Team. In fact, when I started coaching the Canadian National Team, our women’s teams often met in international competitions, and especially at the World Championships. At that time Belgium had strong female players such as Barbara Lippens. Of course the Canadian men also competed against the Belgian men, such as Remo DeProphétis and others. So we had a common coaching ground.
Then later, much later, in 1987 André was handpicked by President Ogimura to restructure the Ranking System to make it better. This also interested me. So I offered my services to André and Mr. Ogimura in trying to make the ITTF ranking a computerized system. I made a presentation in Rome in 1988 at an ITTF conference just before the Seoul Olympics on how the ITTF could convert to a computer ranking system. Several years later, with the hard work of André Damman, and many experiments in England and Canada, finally a computerized system was officially adopted in 1992.
When I thought of joining the ITTF’s Executive Committee and possibly running for president in 1995, I remember André Damman’s words to me privately at the Europe Top-12 in France. He said, “I heard rumours that you may run for president, I think you have a good chance. If you can get the backing of the big associations, you may even win.” As it turned out, I did not run in 1995, I withdrew in favour of Lollo Hammarlund. However, all along the way, I always listened to André Damman and his wise advice, as well as his direct criticism. One thing is sure. He always had, and still has, the well being of the ITTF and table tennis at heart.
In 2009, after André Damman retired from the Ranking Committee, I appointed him to the President’s Advisory Council (PAC).
Thank you, Adham, for sharing this additional information about André Damman.