Goa is set to make its presence felt in the national Table Tennis scenario when Goa Challengers, the team owned by Shrinivas Dempo, makes its debut in Ultimate Table Tennis tournament playing against Mavericks Kolkata at the Thyagaraj Sports Complex in New Delhi today.
“Passion runs in every owner of a team but when a team is named after a State, the passion it evokes is different. It is a very special feeling, a feeling of oneness,” said Shrinivas Dempo when asked the difference of feeling when watching a match when his football team plays and his table tennis team is playing.
” It’s an especially exciting time for me, having just launched Goa Challengers, to tick off the minutes as we approach the start of the UTT League this season. We Goans, both inside and outside the Goa Challengers, are looking forward to a season of great competition leading to great success. Rooting for Goa as I always do, I’m hoping we excel,” added Dempo.
Goa Challengers is being coached by Bettine Vriesekoop who is a Dutch Olympian and European champion, and Arup Basak from India who has coached teams in UTT before.
The players draft had some luck in store for Goa Challengers, as they got the first pick and they had no hesitation in picking Cheng I-Ching, the paddler from Chinese Taipei who is currently ranked 8th in the world.
Archana Kamath and Shruti Amrute who are current National Champions in the senior and youth categories respectively form the nucleus of the women section in the team.
The male paddlers come well endorsed, with Amalraj Anthony leading the charge for the Challengers in the men’s category. The National Champion is joined by Spanish National champion and 2019 World Championship runner-up (Men’s Doubles) Alvaro Robles.
“We have practised and prepared really well. I believe it is going to be a 50-50 match. You really can’t say which team has the better advantage. As we all saw, there is very little to differentiate the teams here. We will give our 100% tomorrow and give it our best shot,” Amalraj Anthony, captain of Goa Challengers told The Navhind Times.
“Our opponents Kolkata Mavericks are a very good team. But our team is also very strong. But with the format change, we can’t say anything at all about the outcome. But our players are in very good form, and are confident of making a winning start,” Arup Basak , the most high-profile of the six Indian coaches disclosed to this newspaper.
Goa Challengers appears to be a well-balanced and dominant side on paper and their strength will be put to test by a team from a state that is known to be Goa’s football rivals.