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Ping pong diplomacy, part 2: Team Kosovo makes appearance at tournament in China

Ping pong diplomacy, part 2: Team Kosovo makes appearance at tournament in China

Ping pong and politics meet once again.
In what is believed to be the first international appearance of a sporting team from Kosovo since it declared independence, the former Serbian province's paddlers took the floor Monday at the 2008 World Team Table Tennis Championships in southern China.
The team's participation conjured up reminders of 1971, when American table tennis players visited China and paved the way for normalization of relations between the nations, launching the phrase "ping pong diplomacy."
For the competition's organizers, however, it's just part of the game.
"We don't speak about politics of course. It's not news for us. Maybe for you, but not for us," International Table Tennis Federation media officer Hubert Gueriau said in a telephone interview from the tournament in Guangzhou.
Since its Feb. 17 declaration o9f independence, Kosovo has been recognized by the United States, Britain and France. Tournament host China has said it was "gravely concerned" by the move.
Kosovo was accepted as an International Table Tennis Federation member in 2003.
"So for ITTF, for the other teams in table tennis, it's not an event that Kosovo is playing table tennis in Guangzhou," Gueriau said, pointing out that it was the fourth world championship appearance for the team.
Politics aside, Kosovo wasn't expected to make much of a splash: The men's team is ranked No. 114 in the world, behind Nepal, while the women are marginally better, ranked No. 112 behind Costa Rica.
Members of the Kosovo team could not be reached for comment. The delegation was small and did not include an official who could handle interview requests. Gueriau said the team rarely attracts much media attention.
"Of course, everybody respects all the teams, but they are not one of the top teams," he said.
The Kosovo squad consisted of just six players _ three men and three women _ according to rosters posted on the tournament Web site.
In Monday's first round, the men beaten 3-0 by Yemen, while the women defeated Iceland 3-1.
The tournament also features a team from Serbia, which has refused to give up Kosovo. Serbs view Kosovo as the cradle of their culture and of their Orthodox Christian faith.
It was too early to say whether there would be a Serbia-Kosovo matchup.


Updated : 2021-08-02 05:44 GMT+08:00