A 12 year old Pakistani, Ummam Khawaja, has earned plenty of commendation and admiration from International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) after he secured 7th position in the ITTF World Hopes Week and Challenge that was held in Doha, Qatar from 29th May to 4th June.

A total of 16 players participated from all across the world and Ummam Khawaja impressed one and all by putting a great show to be ranked No. 7 in the tournament where he was the only Pakistani participating.

12 year old wonder kid, Ummam Khawaja, hails from Swat. He was accompanied to the programme by his coach, Azhar Ahmed, who runs an academy at Mingora.

ITTF Education and Training Coordinator, Dejan Papic, appreciated Ummam Khawaja’s potential and lavished praise for the genius in a letter written to the President of Pakistan Table Tennis Federation (PTTF) SM Sibtain. Dejan penned down his thoughts to Sibtain, stating that:

“Generally Pakistani team [Ummam and his coach Azhar] has been impressive. I know that it is not only my opinion but also of all involved coaches and ITTF officials. Ummam’s level and especially his performance at the Challenge was much higher than we had anticipated”

Dejan also stated that the potential in the kid was inevitable but the lad was inconsistent too which resulted in average marks. He wrote that:

“I would say that his marks are consequence of the fact that he has practiced less than 50 percent of time. Evaluators were not able to see him in many training situations because he was struggling to have up to two hours of daily practice. It resulted in giving average marks (mostly 4-6). His technical level, serve and receive game was easy to mark higher because he has shown some potential. May be more work on his backhand? Potential is truly there but inconsistency is taking its toll”

Ummam Khawaja entered into the knock-out stage as the leader of the group after he stunned 2 higher seeded players. Dejan mentioned in the letter that:

“He managed to beat top seed Erik Huszvar of Hungary and also higher seeded Master Nuchchart of Thailand in Group I before losing to Daniel Ng of Singapore who finished last. Entering the knock-out stage as his group winner Ummam lost to Mohamed Sameh of Egypt in the quarter-finals while fighting hard 3-2. Playing for position 5-8 he earned seventh spot when he lost to Vishwa Deenadayalan of India 0-3 before beating Carlos Fernandez of Peru 3-2”

Dejan also stressed on physical preparation as it would prevent fatigue and injuries. He added:

“It looks that he has grown a lot recently. This can be one of the reasons for his struggling during practice time, finding training load too high for his rapidly growing body. More attention to physical preparation is crucial at this stage of his development and would prevent injuries and fatigue”

Dejan Papic also heaped praise for Azhar Ahmed who was coaching Ummam Khawaja. While appreciating his skills, Dejan stated that:

“Azhar is a knowledgeable coach with strong coaching philosophy and good multi-balls feeding skills”

President of PTTF, SM Sibtain, made sure that Ummam would be sent to India in August for a similar programme. He also said that kids like Ummam would be prepared for future national duty. While talking to the correspondent, he said that:

“We have several such kids and will try to work on them and prepare them for future national duty”

SM Sibtain also expressed his desire to recruit a foreign coach. He stated that PTTF is looking to hire the services of a North Korean coach with the support of Pakistan Sports Board (PSB).

In a country where Cricket is worshiped, Ummam Khawaja has opted for a different sport altogether. At such a young age, he has already received accolades from ITTF which is laudable. It would be significant for the kiddo to maintain the consistency throughout and become a primary example by making a name in Table Tennis so that his followers can get influenced in order to gather interest in the sport.