If I had to choose the two most amazing moments of our trip to the world cup in South Africa, the first one would be for sure when we played ringtennis at a primary school in the township of Wattville. We went there together with Abrie Pienaar and Johan Ferreira, who are involved in projects to promote our wonderful sport in central Gauteng. First, we played with the schoolkids, just a bit of throwing and catching the ring, and after that gave some demonstration matches. Half of the kids were told to cheer for the one side and the rest to cheer for the other—and believe me, they were incredibly loud. I guess I had not played in front of such an amazing crowd since the 2006 World Cup in Chennai (India). The video above shows a short snippet of my match against Fabian Ziegler. Funny enough, I kind of “won” that match, but just half a week after that, Fabian beat me in the semifinal and later became the new world champion in men’s singles.
Interestingly, when you return from a trip having experienced something like this, all your everyday (first world) problems suddenly seem very ridiculous. Compared to Germany, those kids live in squalor. Wattville lies in an area with an unemployment rate of 85% and some kids did not even wear a pair of matching shoes. But still, they were incredibly joyful and so grateful that we came to play ringtennis with them. In fact, when the demonstration matches were over and I gave six rings to the school principal as a present, we had problems getting back to our cars because the kids did not want us to leave. Also, I’ve never seen so many people being so happy just because I gave them a high five. Just after we left, everyone was totally—and I mean absolutely totally—overwhelmed. I just notice that it’s really, really difficult to describe what we experienced. But two of our coaches have summarized the day in a video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfUToERc-b8) that should make it easier to understand what I’m talking about. And if you still feel you don’t know what I mean, I strongly suggest to enter a plane and play ringtennis with some kids in a South African township 😉