On Saturday 14th July at the impressive community-owned Anfield Sports and Community Centre, two squads of table tennis players mingled for a tournament with a difference.
Brighton Table Tennis Club’s minibus-full of mostly teenage players, led by the club founder-director Tim Holtam, were met by representatives from five different Liverpool League clubs – mostly definitely not teenagers!
But the age difference didn’t matter. The aim was for asylum seekers, refugees and locals to meet, compete and enjoy each other’s company and that was certainly achieved on a very friendly afternoon.
Brighton is the UK’s first ‘Table Tennis Club of Sanctuary’ with a radical and very successful approach to inclusion of asylum seekers and refugees.
At the heart of the Liverpool squad were players from St Anne’s, a club which for the past five years has represented Asylum Link Merseyside (ALM) in Liverpool Table Tennis League.
After an afternoon of competition, the top three were Hassib Nuree, Paul Evans and Shakil Malik. Medals, donated by Brighton, were presented by Illa Kamal of ALM and Tom Purcell, a committee member of Liverpool TTL and a Board member of Table Tennis England.
Table Tennis England helped to create the link between Liverpool and Brighton, a link everyone hopes will endure.