The Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA) seems to be in a hurry to finish its table tennis tournament. Yesterday, the 122-year-old school sports body completed 35 to 40 matches across all age groups, sometimes with matches being played simultaneously on three tables barely a few feet from each other in the kabaddi room of the Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex, Dharavi.
Two matches, being played barely a few feet from each other, go on simultaneously at the Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex, Dharavi yesterday
When mid-day visited the venue, the spacious room was crammed with nearly 50 players, coaches and parents while five tables were set up in the room with four of them hosting matches. It is learnt that the MSSA set up two more tables in the room later in the day.
Often, players playing on the three tables placed adjacent to each other seemed to be hesitant in returning shots which were a little wide off the table for fear of bumping into a player from the next table. Few players also complained that having to play so close to another match was a distraction at times.
"I could not concentrate on my game properly because there were a lot of people inside the room. Later in the day, when they added more tables, the place started to get even more congested," lamented fourth seed Paridhi Potnis from Yashodham High School (Goregoan), who beat Meghna Karandikar of Nalande Public School (Mulund) 11-7, 12-10 and 11-9 in the first round. In Round 2, she beat Varada Sigiddhi of St Joseph's (Vikhroli) 11-9, 11-2 and 12-10.
Varada Sigiddhi of St Joseph's (Vikhroli) plays barefoot against Paridhi Potnis due to slippery floor at the venue. Pics/Shadab Khan
Purushottam Markand, coach of Utpal Sanghvi School, said, "Since some of the players are so young, they don't get freedom to hit the shots they want with so many people around. Luckily, MSSA asked the parents and coaches to move out of the room later in the day."
Another grouse of the players was the surface the matches were being played on. Usually, table tennis matches are held on a wooden or taraflex surface. However, yesterday's matches were on polished tiles which got slippery, eventually leading to couple of players, like Varada, playing barefoot.
"I had to play barefoot because I found it difficult to play with my shoes on since they were not gripping the surface properly," the 10-year-old said. Utpal Sanghvi coach Markand said, "I have been a coach for 28 years. Playing on tiles is not appropriate as you need proper grip to move around the court and there are chances of a player slipping and getting injured on such surfaces.
The children are not going to complain because they just want to play, but I feel bad for them. I think the organisers should have at least held matches on the badminton court of the complex."
Paridhi's coach Sunil Gupte, added: "I am not happy with the arrangements, this is not the right kind of surface. It is risky for players to play here as they can get injured easily."
Meanwhile, MSSA table tennis secretary Arthur Fernandes said, "Every year we play at University ground, but it is under construction and will only be available in January. "But it would have been too late for us since the children would be busy with their exams so we had to change the venue this time."