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42-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

By Sheri Cioroslan | July 21, 2014, 5 p.m. (ET)

Day 42, July 21 - Cherif Hajem Ruminates on More Than a Half Century of Service

“The most important secret of President Sharara’s success has been his excellent choice of staff and colleagues.”

ITTF Executive Vice-President Cherif HAJEM has dedicated over 50 years of his life to our sport.  During that time, he has taken on more and more roles and responsibilities.  And, each time, he has never missed a meeting or an event.  Today he visits with the Countdown about his life in table tennis.

Can you tell us about your various roles in the sport?

I can best answer that question with this chart.






In Tunisia:

9 + 46 years













Beginner, player, umpire, reporter, etc...

General Secretary of Tunisian TTA

President of Tunisian TTA,

Honorary President of Tunisian TTA


In North Africa:

26 years










Vice President

President Maghreb TTU

Honorary President Maghreb TTU


In Africa:

41 years

(I never missed a meeting!)













BOD Member African TTF

General Secretary African TTF

President African TTF

Honorary President African TTF


In Mediterranean:

7 years




Vice President Mediterranean TTU


In the French Speaking Union:

24 years







Vice President French Speaking Union

Honorary Vice President French Speaking Union



34 years










Member of the BOD

Vice President for Continent

Executive Vice President

Awards Received:

1988    International TT Federation    Gold Award for Merit (1st List)

1989    Tunisian TT Association                     Gold Award for Merit (1st List)

1989    Tunisian Sport Ministry                      Award for Merit

1996    Tunisian Republic                               Order Knight

2010    African TT Federation                        Award for Merit (1st List)

2012    Supreme Council of Sport in Africa   Honorary Medal

Cherif HajemIn Tunisia, during my presidency, TT achieved the following results: # 2 in all sports in terms of affiliation of clubs (142 clubs with 2568 players in 1988).  Also Tunisian teams have been ranked # 2 in the Arabic region (after Egypt) and # 3 in Africa (after Nigeria and Egypt)

I never missed an African competition or meeting from 1974 to 2013 = 40 years, except the African Games of 1978.

Regarding the Olympic Games, I was a member of the jury in Atlanta in 1996, Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008 and the Olympic Youth Games in Singapore in 2010.

At the Francophone Games, I served as President Ogimura’s representative in 1994 in Draveil (France), ITTF Technical Delegate in Niger in 2005, in Beyrouth, Lebanon in 2009 and in Nice, France in 2013.

I never missed a meeting of the ITTF Board, Executive Council or Executive Committee during the period of May 1981 to May 2014 (33 years).  And, since 1979, I have attended all of the WTTC’s .

I am lucky to have worked with five ITTF Presidents:

Mr. Roy EVANS                                1981 – 1986

Mr. Ichiro OGIMURA                        1987 – 1994

Mr. Lollo HAMMARLUND              1995

Mr. XU Yinsheng                                1996 – 1999

Mr. Adham SHARARA                     Since August 1999

I remember a few times I had to travel for three days from different continents in order to attend, at the same time, ATTF and ITTF meetings (for example, in December of 1997, South Africa and Hong Kong; in December of 2005, Niger and Austria; and September of 2009, Beyrouth and Copenhagen).

The African TTF was founded in December of 1961 in Cairo.  The first ATTF President, up to 1973, was Mr. Anwar AL SADAT (Egypt).  The second ATTF President was Mr. Amine ABOU HEIF (Egypt) from 1974 to 1988.  And the third ATTF President was Mr. George SEGUN (Nigeria) from 1989 to 1996.

So, in Africa, I worked as General Secretary for 8 years with Mr. Amine ABOU HEIF and for another 8 years with Mr. George SEGUN.

This is the record of our ATTF affiliated associations:

9 in 1967, 26 in 1989, 36 on 1996, 46 on 2010, and 49 as of 2014.

What are your current communications with Africa?

I discovered the dynamism of Mr. Khaled  EL-SALHY (Egypt) during the 1991 African Games in Cairo.  That is why I supported him very much, in spite of his absence due to his illness at the ATTF Congress in Nairobi (1996) for the position of 1 of the 4 ATTF Executive Vice Presidents and later, as President of the African TTF, during the Congress held in Yaoundé, Cameroon on November 2010 (after the recommendation of the ATTF Executive Committee held in Moscow on May 2010).

Since he became the ATTF President, I believe that he has been competent and independent in his duties within the ATTF.  Sometimes he ask me for advice, and I gave him my opinion. We always maintain good relations and keep in good communication with each other.

So my current communications with Africa are directly with the President of the ATTF.

Now let’s move on to some of your other responsibilities as a member of the ITTF’s Executive Committee. Our last elections were in 2013. What work do you do with the Nominations Committee during the non-election years, including preparations for each year’s Annual General Meeting?

First, I am very happy that this Committee is working very hard according to its duties as spelled out in the ITTF’s Constitution (Item 1.11.11).  I am also happy with the work done by its Chair, Mr. Chan Foong Keong.  For the future, another duty has been added to this Committee, which consists of studying some criteria about the Medal of Merit. Personally, as an Executive Vice President, working in good relations with the Chairman Mr. Chan Foong Keong, I was surprised to learn that many associations have never presented any candidates for this Medal of Merit, even though there are many persons (about 150) who worked for at least 15 years in the ITTF’s highest bodies (the Executive Committee, Executive Council, Board)!  So, I think that the Nomination Committee has a lot of work to do every year about this matter.

How about your work with the Chair of the Rules Committee, Rudi Sporrer?

From 1983 to 1995, as President of the Tunisian TTA, I proposed to the ITTF BGM many proposals of modification of items in the Constitution and Regulations of international and world competitions. So I have known Mr. Rudi Sporrer since 1995, when he became an ITTF Council member. That is why the ITTF Executive Committee on the recommendation of Mr. Adham SHARARA, on May 2009, nominated me to represent the EC on the Rules Committee, chaired by Mr. Rudi Sporrer.  As I said before, I always work with any Committee Chair with a sense of mutual respect.  So I work in good harmony with Rudi.

Moving on to the area of Technical matters, the ITTF dissolved its Technical Committee and has instead now a Technical Commissioner, Graeme Ireland. Can you discuss why this change was made and how are things working out under this scenario?

The Competition Department was established in September 2008 as a part of the new ITTF structure to transform the ITTF’s image with the public, media, sport organizations and sponsors by delivering high quality international tournaments. This was necessary due to the fast increase in the number of competitions (about 100) and constant growth of the competition program.

That decision was taken by the Executive Committee before I became a member of the EC.  It seems to be very logical, so, of course, I support it.

In any case, Mr. Graeme IRELAND, the ITTF’s Technical Commissioner, is working very closely with the ITTF’s Competition Department, especially during the World and Olympic competitions.  Meanwhile his colleagues and the corresponding members in each continent are doing the same in their areas.

I personally know and appreciate the work done by Mr. Mokhtar TOUKABRI, Chairman of the African Technical Committee whose work is overseen by the President of the ATTF: Mr. Khaled EL-SALHY.

A final area of your responsibilities concerns “results and statistics.” Could you describe what your functions are in this area?  

Such work as “results and statistics” is handled by our professional staff, such as Mr. Matthew Pound, the ITTF’s Promotion Manager, with the collaboration of Mr. Arne Madsen, the Chairman of the ITTF’s Media Committee.  On Countdown Day 62, Matt Pound cited several interesting results and statistics, especially regarding the latest WTTC’s in Tokyo.   

Would you like to share any interesting stories about President Sharara and his contributions to the ITTF?   Are there some successes you would like to discuss?  Are there some problems that you think have disappeared since his presidency?

I discovered Mr. Adham SHARARA as my colleague in February of 1989 in Dortmund during the ITTF Congress, and especially during the ITTF Council meeting.  He was the Continental Vice President for North America and I was one of the members representing Africa.  I felt that he was a gentleman who likes to promote any sector of Table Tennis that he thinks can be done (for example, at that time, he had a Ranking System project).

The following year, in July of 1990 during the ITTF Council meeting in Casablanca, Morocco, he moved to the seat next me in order to help me better understand some English accents.  He helped me throughout that meeting in that regard. I very much appreciated his kind gesture.

In December of 1994, during the Senior African Championships in Cairo, Egypt, he honored the African table tennis family by his presence.  Since that time, our cooperation started in order to promote Table Tennis in Africa.  This began when he became first the ITTF Deputy President and CEO in Manchester, England in April of 1997.  Then, he continued to work with us when he was elected ITTF President in Eindhoven, Netherlands in August of 1999. 

At that time, 1999, there were only 180 associations affiliated with the ITTF.  Now we have 220 associations, making us tied for number 1 in the world among all Olympic international federations (IFs).

Every year, since 2000, the ITTF has organized about 100 courses throughout the world with the collaboration of many Development Officers in the 6 continents.  The ITTF is ranked number 2 among IFs by Olympic Solidarity.  In Africa, for example, there have been about 20 different training camps and an equipment package was given to 10 different African associations. All of the six ITTF continents offer courses annually. 

Regarding competitions, there are about 100 ITTF-recognized or organized events annually throughout the world.  The look of the competitions and the technical issues are improving from one year to the next due to the collaboration of many competition managers in the 6 continents and also due to the full financial support of the ITTF to all the Continents.  This has helped our sport’s ranking move up in the eyes of the IOC from # 17, to # 13, to # 9.  That means that we can strive to be in the Top 5. 

Along those lines, we can be in the “Top 5 in All We Do” in most of the 40 elements of the evaluations due to Adham’s strategy of the P5: Popularity – Participation – Profit – Planning (1999-2013) and Promotion (2014).  

I’d also like to mention the importance of continental rotation.  It was done first with the scheduling of World Junior and Cadet Competitions.  Now it’s time to try to do the same with the WTTC’s and the Annual General Meeting.

There are many accomplishments that I can list during Adham Sharara’s presidency, among them:

-          Reducing games to 11 points

-          Increasing the ball to 40 mm (and now plastic instead of celluloid )

-          Increasing 4 times the prize money during competitions

-          Giving to women the same prize money as men

-          Increasing to 25 % the representation of women in all specialized committees of ITTF

-          Revision of the ITTF Constitution (2 times)

-          Creation of Continental affiliations and increasing their budgets (by 100%)

-          Elaboration of terms of reference for each committee

-          Promotion of Working Groups & Commissions to Specialized Committees

-          Creation of the President’s Advisory Council

-          Introduction of the Team events in the Olympic Games

-          Creation of the Athlete’s Commission

-          Promotion of many social programs in different parts of the world

-          Publication of all activities on the ITTF’s website

-          Extending the Executive Committee to 9 members

-          Creation of the ITTF Museum

-          ITTF-owned headquarters

-          Glue Ban

-          Creation of different Academies in the world

-          New competition added: World Club Championships

-          Creation in ITTF of 4 departments: Operations & Para TT, Education & Training, Competitions, and Development

-          Creation of ITTF’s own TV broadcasting channel, itTV

-          Increasing about 10 times the budget of ITTF through TMS (60%)

-          Transfer of governance from IPC to ITTF (Paralympic Table Tennis Division)

-          Very good quadrennial planning of the ITTF Budget through Marketing (4 parts), Olympic revenue (2 parts), other revenues (1 part).

-          Qualification of international umpires and referees in different categories

-          Table Tennis secured as a Summer Olympic sport in 2020

-          Facebook page is very popular over the world: about 80,000 “likes”

-          Finally:  Adham’s new initiative is to set new goals and objectives for the ITTF through his P5 Plan and Data-Base Intelligence (DBI), involving all national associations, continental federations, table tennis officials and experts.

In the field of TV audiences, Table Tennis who was # 5 in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.  It became # 3 in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing among over 28 Olympic sports.

Table Tennis was ranked 5 in the number of spectators at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Table Tennis is ranked 9 (among 45) after the evaluation of the IOC in 2009.

All those performances were realized by Mr. Adham SHARARA, who is a man of Marketing, Management and Communication.

The most important secret of President SHARARA’s success has been his excellent choice of staff and colleagues.

I want to express my best wishes to Adham in his new position: Chairman of the ITTF AGM.  This transition will free him up to promote table tennis outside of the ITTF with the IOC, ASOIF, SportAccord and other leading international sports organizations.

Thank you very much.  I want to join you in wishing President Sharara success in his continued efforts to promote our sport.