Timo Boll: “The Silence is the Problem”
Source: German “VID” (Clubs Information Service) newsletter June 2015/ “SID” (Sport Information Service)
Timo Boll wants table tennis to be more spectacular. Germany’s table tennis star Timo Boll worries about the appeal of his sport. The record-holding European Champion sees an extensive “face lift” as a necessary step to make table tennis more attractive. „The frequent silence is a problem for table tennis“; the 34-year old mentioned recently to the German Sports-Information-Service (SID) right before the Bundesliga-Final of his club Borussia Düsseldorf.
The number seven in the world ranking introduces a discussion about more spectacles around the court. From his point of view table tennis events need to become more of an event. Even the even- grounded Timo Boll starts to wonder: “We could try to play with music.”
Smashes underlined with rousing songs would be like a revolution: Until now shouting and singing crowds are taboos in professional table tennis. Absolute silence among the visitors immediately before services and during rallies, interrupted at best by a restrained murmur at remarkable shots, is a traditional characteristic of the sport – but also an obstacle to staging an event.
Boll: “The audience wants to experience something.” Boll sees everyone involved – organizers, clubs and players – demanded to take action.
Clubs could provide a better atmosphere already through appropriate decorations of the hall: “In the US,” says Boll, “the basketball halls in the NBA are decorated with the colors of the home team. This creates a special flair inside the halls.”
Boll regards the high attendance of 5492 spectators at the Bundesliga – Finals in Hamburg already as progress. “It does not have the stuffed appeal of training halls anymore”, Boll commented on the efforts by organizers and teams, but also criticized a lack of identification by the fans, resulting in a low-key atmosphere: “There is no real fan culture”.
Germany’s table tennis world at least partly agrees with Timo Boll’s ideas: ”Sitting quietly on your chair for three hours at such an event is no longer usual at sports events”, comments national coach Jörg Rosskopf to SID. “Music during a game is more of a problem, but it seems imaginable during breaks, such as towel breaks, to keep spectators interested and engaged and make them take part in the event they are seeing. Transferring emotion from the table to the fans should be the goal here.”
European Champion Dimitrij Ovtcharov also holds visual effects, such as the gladiator-like spotlight on players entering the arena, used in last year’s World Tour Finals, in high regard. “The playing box is surrounded by LED light and during gameplay; the rest of the hall is darkened.” The Bronze medalist at the Olympics reports. “This is awesome.”
The world Ranked no. 7 suggests a system similar to tennis or football: “We lose a lot of time picking up the ball. In China, they use multiple balls, which would eliminate this problem and makes the game flow easier for the spectators.”