… and how it happened. Just like last year, this instance of “Asia vs. Europe”, officially the “ZFTC Cup Euro-Asia All Stars” was hosted by the city of Zhang Jiagang in China. I was able to be the coach this year.
Led by Marcos Freitas and Vladimir Samsonov, team Europe had to face the Asian outfit on two competition days, Asia was led into the field by World Champion Ma Long.
Ambitious and creative organization
It has been a very special event once again and this time the organizers would go about it in a very creative way.
A stretch limo would pick up the teams and chauffeur them around between hotel and playing venue. And there’s more:
Much like on Hollywood Boulevard, every player was requested to leave his handprint to be inducted into the wall of stars, a very sympathetic idea in my opinion. The table held another interesting innovation. A screen under the surface displayed the score and animated graphics throughout the match. Player would need more time to adjust to the different feel and the different ball bounce though!
The organizers also paid tribute to a game of “merry-go-round”, as popular in many schools:
The first Day
Team Asia entered the competition as a slight favorite. Nonetheless, Europe managed a 3:2 lead after the first day. Especially Robert Gardos was a notable player in the ranks of Europe, beating GAO Ning with 3:0. Andrej GACINA overcame Noshad ALAMIYAN while veteran Vladimir SAMSONOV treated TANG Peng to a 3:1 victory. On the plus side for Asia, CHUANG Chih-Yuan beat Bastian STEGER, and the World Champion MA Long won over Marcos FREITAS – with 3:0.
The Day of Decision
The second day became the decisive day for Europe – and started off with a Bang.
Andrej GACINA, only the Number 5 among the team, successfully overcame CHUANG Chi-Yuan with 3:0, his backhand being the weapon of choice to put the fast legs of the taiwan player to work.
The overall score was 4:2, even increased by the victory of Robert GARDOS over Noshad Alamayan.
Marcos FREITAS was in the spotlight. He was in the position to decide the overall game with a victory for Europe. His match vs. TANG Peng could have gone either way – but when the Portuguese went up 10:6 in the fifth, it all looked to be over soon.
But the HongKong player came back and fought on. Suddenly, it was 10:10 and the outcome unsure. But Marcos kept his cool and closed the deal with 12:10 in the final game. Europe won – despite Bastian STEGER and Vladimir SAMSONOV losing their second match.
With 6:4 the final score, here are some statements that I feel relevant to this competition.
„It is very special for Europe to win the first competition vs Asia this year.”
„Ma Long is not only a well-deserved World Champion, but also tremendously friendly.”
„Two-colored balls in combination with the table screen surface were too many experiments at the same time for my taste.”
What comes next.
Vladi, Marcos and Robert flew straight on to the China Open, while Bastian, Andrej and myself went back on Monday to prepare for the next Season. Them for their next matches, me for my new position as sports director of the German table tennis association.
Til the next time,