Sharath Kamal’s Germany plans put off due to visa issues

Ace Indian paddler Sharath Kamal’s plans of getting some much-needed match time and quality training after the long pandemic-induced break, at the Table Tennis Champions League in Germany, has not materialised due to visa issues.

With an aim to prepare and get into top shape ahead of the Olympic qualifiers early next year in the build-up to the postponed Tokyo Olympics in July-August, India’s top-ranked table tennis player was looking to fly to Germany this month after being part of the national camp since October end. The idea was to get into match mode and tournament mode by playing for his club Borussia Dusseldorf in the Champions League—held from December 11 to 18 in a bio bubble in Dusseldorf—and possibly remain in Germany thereafter to train alongside top European players.

However, visa hassles have thrown those plans up in the air. “There are no tourist visas for Germany at this point of time, so I need special permission and letters from the government and SAI (Sports Authority of India) here. That is taking time,” the world No. 32 Sharath said on Monday. “My papers are ready and I will ask SAI again to push it.”

Instead, the 38-year-old has returned home to Chennai after the national camp for the country’s core paddlers wrapped up in Sonepat on December 8.

The Champions League—usually played through the year between Europe’s top clubs—hosts some of the world’s top paddlers, and Sharath’s club-mates include world No. 10 Timo Ball of Germany and Sweden’s 29th-ranked Karlsson Kristian, among others. Yearning for high level training and sparring as well as game time since the nationwide lockdown in March, Sharath said Germany was an ideal place for it after finding his playing groove again at the national camp.

“It makes a major difference. Training in Germany with a lot of their top players is almost like match preparation. I would need that sooner rather than later, because I haven’t played any matches for such a long period of time. And timing has to be right; it can’t be a stop-start process,” Sharath said.

“The foundation work has been done at the camp. I need matches under my belt now. It’s important to assess and have a plan about things you want to work on technically and practically. The practical bit hasn’t been coming at all, because there are no tournaments to play in. That’s why I was looking forward to the Champions League matches,” he added.

Forced to rework his plans, Sharath hopes the SAI and the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) can organise another short camp for the core group soon while TTFI’s wish of holding a national championship probably next month sees the light of the day by the time he can procure his visa for Germany.

“Even if the federation and SAI take their time, I was talking to the other players about getting together in one place by our own and training for maybe 10 days; even if it’s just two-three guys. Now that we have gained some momentum by having the camp and getting into the daily training routine, it’s important that we don’t lose it,” Sharath said.

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