(by Steve Hopkins)
TTF Borussia Dusseldorf has been awarded first place in the European Table Tennis Champions League. Four teams had made the Final Four with Dusseldorf facing another German squad, Saarbrucken, in one semifinal and two Russian Teams (Fakel Gazprom and UMMC) matched up in the other Semifinal.
On Thursday, Dusseldorf defeated Saarbrucken for the second time, winning their series and advancing to the Final. The other Semifinal Series was 1-0 with Fakel Gazprom Orenburg in the lead ahead of TTSC UMMC.
At one point on Thursday, sources indicated that Borussia Dusseldorf could boycott the Final to make their statement against the Russian aggression against Ukraine (. However, after an emergency meeting of the Executive Board of the ETTU, a statement was issues that Russian clubs would not be permitted to compete in any European Club competitions in the 2021-22 season. This specifically referenced the Russian clubs due to compete in the semifinal and final of the Men’s Champions League. This announcement effectively disqualified the Fakel and UMMC squads leaving only Dusseldorf.
This is an unfortunate end to a great season – and robs table tennis fans of some interesting match-ups. The UMMC squad, for instance, includes Pucar and Pitchford and the Fakel squad includes Yun-Ju and Calderano (and Ovtcharov, though he is currently injured). Unfortunately, fans will have to wait until another year to see these matches unfold
With this title, Dusseldorf has now won two in a row (and 7 total). Dusseldorf will now turn its attention back to the German League (TTBL), with the goal of also repeating last year’s TTBL title.
Other ETTU actions included the removal of Igor Levitin (a Russian) from his ETTU leadership position and the temporary removal of Vladimir Samsonov (Belarus). Levitin especially has been instrumental in bringing Russian sponsorship to ETTU events. In fact, even as Russian officials are being removed and Russian teams and players are being blocked from competitions, ETTU continues to list major Russian companies as partners. ETTU lists 9 major sponsors. Of those 9, the largest five (Gazprom, MIR, Rostselmash, Tamanneftegas, and Bosco) are all Russian companies.
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