A former Natal table tennis coach says he is disheartened by the sorry state of the sport’s one-time Durban premises.
Reggie Naidoo, of the now defunct eThekwini Table Tennis Association, said the remarkable Greyville building, in Epsom Road, was once a beacon of multi-racial sport and had produced many champions.
But mounting maintenance, water and lights bills forced the association to quit the building in 2007 and organised table tennis in the city went into decline, and with it the valuable role it played fostering sport in Durban’s townships.
Naidoo said the building, which is owned by the municipality and has heritage status, is a far cry from its former glory.
The Daily News reported in October that vagrants had occupied it. The illegal tenants, who did not want to be named, were hoping to be given homes in the planned Cornubia project, near Waterloo.
“The building was well taken care of [in the past],” said Naidoo. “It was during the period of apartheid when we took over from the previous occupants (the Portuguese community).
“But the sport played a significant role in uniting different races with an abundance of talent.
“I conducted coaching [sessions] in Westville prison and in the local townships. The aim was to develop young talent.”
Naidoo’s son, Trevor Naidoo, who with Cathy Rutland won the junior table tennis championship in 1991, praised the sport that helped players develop leadership skills and discipline.
“It allowed us to find purpose instead of being on the streets or spending time with alcohol. It truly was multi-racial and -cultural, which meant that diversity became part of our very being. We spent hours of training in that building, it became our symbol.
“I remember one incident when we (non-white players) were attacked in Bloemfontein during a tournament and our white friends defended us. So, for me those were the big ticket items.
“One can talk about the titles and the competitiveness. But those are merely emotions that one goes through in the throes of competition. Table tennis left us with more,” he said.
A former table tennis champion, Cheryl Roberts, said the minister of sport needed to invest at grass roots level to revive the game.
“I grew up in Wentworth. It was the only sport I could play with passion and zeal,” she said. “Different sport codes helped the nation to heal from its past.”
Hoosen Moolla, manager of the Inner City eThekwini Regeneration and Urban Management Programme, confirmed the illegal occupants were still in the building.
“It qualifies for heritage status because it was built more than 60 years ago.
“The city would decide on what to do once the current occupants were evacuated,” said Moolla.