After life circumstances have folded the game—or almost, a father and his sons are going through an exceptional experience in the path of reviving the table tennis game in Dhamar, by opening a training hall in one of the public schools, in front of fans and amateurs of the game.
Ali Al-Waleed, a former table tennis player who won a number of championships with the Dhamar governorate national team in the eighties of the last century, is currently the director of Al-Hassan Bin Ali School in Dhamar.
The experience of reviving the game came again—after it was obliterated by oblivion—by sheer coincidence, when he—Al-Waleed—moved to the school administration about a year and a half ago, he found a tennis table without rackets, balls, or even players, which was in a corner of one of the halls, neglected and dusty. Then, to spark in his mind the idea of reviving the game.
"My three sons and I and a number of young men and amateurs started to train and play the game after we were able to provide another table and a number of rackets and balls for the game," the man in his fifties said, who is entering his twenty-fifth year in the field of education. He added to "Khuyut": "It is a new experience. We may revive the game in Dhamar after the closure of clubs due to the cessation of sports activities as one of the repercussions of the war."
The disappearance of the presence of table tennis game in Dhamar governorate is due to the preoccupation of many people with the search for bread and food, which comes at the top of their priority list, and—of course—sports are not among them.
For Al-Waleed, the table tennis game is one of the most prestigious games, and which requires training and a high mood to play. Therefore, he chose the youth among his children and their peers to plant the seeds of love for the game in their hearts.
Eighteen-year-old Ahmed, ten-year-old Taha, and twelve-year-old Mohammed have been practicing and playing table tennis for several months; all this is to establish a new sporting reality in the city of Dhamar, by pushing the rest of their peers to play this game.
Moreover, Al-Waleed joins his children in playing, in light of the complete inactivity of the game in the governorate. So the father tries to hone the athletic talents in the game of table tennis, and everyone obeys the guidance of the former Dhamar national team player, whose name shone as one of the stars of the game in the past.
A Game Disappeared As a Result of Life Circumstances
Everyone trains for three to four hours a day, in various trainings, while making sure to understand the strategies and techniques of the game, which has specific laws that regulate its practice. However, at the same time, the game needs focus and high-skill training that enables players to seize opportunities and win rounds of play.
Furthermore, Taha, and Mohammed participated in several tournaments, including the Jerusalem Championship. They achieved advanced positions, which is considered a victory for the game in Dhamar—according to Al-Waleed—in comparison to its fragile reality that folded the stardom of the game, before the effects of the war surfaced on public and private life.
On the other hand, Al-Waleed believes that the disappearance of the presence of table tennis game in Dhamar governorate is due to the preoccupation of many people with the search for bread and food, which comes at the top of their priority list, and not including sports.
Stars of the Good Old Days
Ahmed Al-Methali, the former member of the national table tennis team and the head of the Yemen Table Tennis Association between 2006 and 2016, as well as the former member of the Pioneers Committee of the Arab Table Tennis Association, recalls the circumstances of the founding of the game, which started with a group of amateurs at the Fatah Club and the Sheba Club, including the deceased Mohammed Al-Yamani, Abdullah Al-Muzaiji, Ahmed Al-Hawshabi, Mohammed Al-Methali, Mohammed Al-Yousifi, Mohammed Al-Jalal, Abdullah Al-Dhubbah, and Abdu Al-Hussaini. According to Al-Methali, he was the youngest in that group, as he spoke to "Khuyut", saying: "These were the stars of the game during that period in the mid-seventies of the last century."
Actually, playing the game was a hobby before it turned into a local participation. It first started by participating in the Republic Schools tournament, in which Ahmed Al-Methali won second place in the "single" category, and third place in the "team" category. After that, the participation continued, which crowned later with the Dhamar team winning the first place in the tournament in the eighties of the last century.
Fateh Dhamar's team participated in the Republic Clubs Championship in Taiz City, ascending after that championship to the first division clubs. Besides, it was the first participation for Dhamar at the clubs level. The team included names such as: the deceased Mohammed Al-Yamani, Fathi Al-Shawish, Abdu Al-Hussaini, Ahmed Al-Methali, and Abdu Al-Taizi.
Additionally, Al-Methali pointed out that the most important participation at the clubs level was in the year 1992, in the city of Aden, when the team achieved the fourth place in the championship. The team was composed of: Ali Al-Waleed, Abdu Al-Hussaini, Ali Al-Habsi, Ahmed Al-Methali, Fathi Al-Shawish, Abdu Al-Taizi, and Mohammed Mahdi (Bughdi).
In his speech, Al-Methali enumerates some of the names that have shone in the sky of the game over many years, who were pushed by clubs in Dhamar to join the national team, such as: "Nabeel Al-Dhabi'e, Abdulkareem Al-Habsi, Abdulmoneim Sharhan, Hussain Al-Afara, and Najeeb Al-Hawshabi." Considering that these names represent the "golden generation" that has achieved strong results for Fateh Dhamar Club during 15 years in the table tennis game.
Clubs and their Rise
In 1993, Najm Sheba Club in Dhamar rose to the first division. The club had—at that time—and included distinguished players in its ranks, such as "Redwan Shani, Mohammed Al-Qarni, Ahmed Al-Matari, Abdullah Al-Hada, Abdulsalam Al-Marwani, and Nabeel Al-Washali." These are the golden generation of Najm Sheba Club, as confirmed by the former national team member, who headed a number of missions participating in Arab and international table tennis tournaments over many years.
Thus, Najm Sheba Club was followed by other Dhamarian clubs, including: “Shabab Rakhma”, and “Salam Ma'abar,” which jumped to the ranks of the second-division clubs in the table tennis game. This is something that Al-Methali and his generation are proud of; because it turned Dhamar into a prominent name in the game and a strong competitor for ancient clubs in the republic.
During the years 2022 and 2023, the governorate team won third place in the Republic through three players, namely: Ali Al-Waleed and two of his sons, Ahmed and Taha.
Whilst, Al-Methali attributes the reasons for the deterioration of the game of table tennis in Dhamar to the interest of the clubs administrations in football only but not other games; besides, the clubs' lack of halls for table tennis, as well as the lack of official interest in the game and the cessation of government support allocated to it.
Likewise, in the personal history of the star, Ahmed Al-Methali, there are many achievements, including obtaining first place in the second-division clubs championship, representing Najm Sheba Club in 1995, and then ascending with it to the first division clubs. Also, the second place in the third division clubs championship, and then ascending with it to the second division clubs, representing Shabab Rakhma Club.