Situated in the Horn of Africa, Djibouti was the home for a recent Women’s Coaching Course; proceedings commenced on Sunday 27th December and concluded on Sunday 3rd January.


Organised under the auspices of the ITTF Development Programme in conjunction with the African Table Tennis Federation and Ping Sans Frontières; the expert appointed was Carole Grundisch.


Currently, Carole Grundisch is integral to the fortunes of the French National Team, a fact which underlines the aims of Ping Sans Frontières.


The organisation comprises a group of current and former French international and national players, the goal being to make a difference in the developing world.


Thus in keeping with the aims of the organisation; to assist Carole Grundisch and provide equipment for the girls in Djibouti, Ping Sans Frontières funded the attendance of Chloé Siles.


“We arrived in Djibouti with our two big bags, each 25 kilogrammes”, explained Carole Grundisch. “Chloé helped a great deal and at the end of week we organised a tournament.”


Certainly the efforts of both Carole Grundisch and Chloé Siles were well received.


“Most of the Djiboutians speak French; it is the official language but they have many different origins, mainly from Somalia and Ethiopia, their close neighbours”, explained Carole Grundisch. “Most of the Djiboutians talk to each other in Somali; others have Arabic influences or are from the Middle East.”


The close link with Ethiopia is because Djibouti has immediate access to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is situated near one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and thus provides a principal port for Ethiopian trade.


One item in particular that arrives from Ethiopia attracted the attention of Carole Grundisch.


“Their holy day is on Friday, other days people work from 7.30am to 2.00pm; in afternoon the men sit and eat a strange plant that comes from Ethiopia every day by truck, the famous “khat” is the local legal soft drug”, said Carole Grundisch whose eyes were opened by a very different lifestyle to that experienced in her native France.


“They told us that after eating the drug, they talk a great deal and don’t sleep during the night”, continued Carole Grundisch. “Someone told us it is because of amphetamines inside, around midnight every day, all the city is preoccupied by finding, sending and buying the drug.”


A different way of living but for Carole Grundisch the focus was on the Women’s Training Camp; the aim being to provide the opportunity for as many beginner girls as possible from six to 20 years of age to discover table tennis and motivate them to continue for at least one year after the week had concluded.


“Mahmoud Oumar Omir, President of the Djibouti Table Tennis Federation and Madina Said, the Deputy President, organised the girls into three groups”, explained Carole Grundisch. “Group One was for players aged six to 12 years, Group Two for 13 to 20 years and Group Three for the seven girls who formed the National Team.”


“Three sessions were held each day, Group Two practised from 8.30am to 10.00am, Group One from 10.30am to 12.00 noon; then in the afternoon, the Group One, the National Team”, explained Carole Grundisch. “Impressively, for those who wanted to continue, a programme has been planned to enable the girls to practise twice a week.”


“Concerning materials, the Federation had enough balls and rackets but we took them back after each session, they had to be kept by the federation”, said Carole Grundisch. “The main problem was the hall, it was very small, with a low ceiling, a slippery floor and there was only enough space for three tables.”


Certainly, it was a challenge for Carole Grundisch, who after the Opening Ceremony, attended by members of the National Olympic Committee, had concluded, was faced with quite a daunting proposition.


“All the girls who were going to attend the Training Camp were present at the Opening Ceremony, each girl received a training shirt from the Federation”, explained Carole Grundisch. “You could clearly see they were very excited; we started to play and it was a very funny sight, 30 girls sharing one table!”


“For the beginners Chloé to organised practices like playing against the wall, multi-ball, service, playing on half table and juggling”, explained Carole Grundisch. “I am very grateful to Chloé who helped me teach and organise the various group.”


Most certainly with such large numbers it was a hectic time for Carole Grundisch and Chloé Siles; in the afternoon, it was somewhat less frenzied with the seven members of the National Team.


“Some boys from Federation came to learn how to coach and organise training as well as to practise with the girls”, continued Carole Grundisch. “I think we found a good way to work; there was good cooperation and a good atmosphere.”


Problems solved but there was another problem which Carole Grundisch unfortunately faced.


“Monday and Tuesday went very well but on Wednesday Chloé fell ill while I was at practice, alone in the hotel she fainted; we had to take her to hospital for stiches in chin”, explained Carole Grundisch. “We thought all would recover quickly but on the following evening, she fell ill again; maybe as a result of food she had eaten or being dehydrated, she spent two nights in hospital.”


In fact she spent New Year’s Eve in hospital; she was in the infirmary on Thursday 31st December and Friday 1st January.

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