Table Tennis – proud member of a big Sporting`s family and place of joy for football star Cristiano RONALDOPhoto: Courtesy Sporting Club de Portugal
Interview with Sporting Team Manager Gonçalo CASTANHEIRA, two days prior to the first semi-final leg of TTCLM against reigning champion Orenburg (March 15th, 19:00): "Now everything is possible"!
Sporting Clube de Portugal, founded in 1906, is best known for its football team – 1964 European Cup Winners` Cup champion – and some of biggest football stars ever like Luis FIGO and Cristiano RONALDO. But, Sporting`s table tennis club drew attention across the nation, after big success in their very first Table Tennis Champions League Men season. This Thursday, March 15th, they will host the reigning TTCLM champion Fakel Gazprom Orenburg in the first semi-final leg. More than enough reason for the interview with Sporting TT Team Manager Gonçalo CASTANHEIRA…
How do you explain Sporting`s success in the debuting TTCLM season?
Although we were considered the outsider team of the event we knew we could go far. From the beginning we believed that victory in all games was possible even though we were in the most difficult group that left us without any margin of error. The game of the opening day in Pontoise was crucial. We knew that almost everything depended on how we started the race. We won with some naturalness and from that game we began to face the victories and the passage of the group of natural form.
What was the crucial in the quarter-final encounters against Stella Sport?
We knew it was going to be a very difficult game. We got a good home team victory that gave us several tactical chances in France. We choose to try to simplify the game and ensure the victory as soon as possible, placing the greatest responsibility on João MONTEIRO, who once again set the example and gave the team more peace of mind. They were all at their best and the support of the public - JuveLeo França - and athletes' friends was also crucial.
What is the limit of actual Sporting`s team?
Sporting has no limit and we love this spirit. Sporting has won all national club competitions in recent years (Super Cup, Championship and Cup) and there was the ambition to make the leap to international club events. This main team of Sporting was “handpicked” after a big change over the last season. We maintained the main structure, consisting of the Chinese coach and two Nigerian players, and we had the privilege of being able to hire our two favorite Portuguese athletes.
How do you comment individual performances of Sporting`s players in the TTCLM so far?
João MONTEIRO was chosen to lead this fantastic group of players. Former champion for Sporting and fan in love with the club he returned to “his home” in time after winning many international titles. Currently playing his best table tennis as a result of the passion and family atmosphere he enjoys in Portugal, he was decisive in all games of the competition and he is undoubtedly the best player a team can wish for.
Aruna QUADRI is the current best African player and after several times of international high level he was required to maintain his success at the club level. It has grown in mental terms since the beginning of the competition cementing more and more its aggressiveness at the table. Now that Aruna becomes a Portuguese citizen his best is yet to come...
Diogo CARVALHO is the current national champion of Portugal and was our joker in the TTCLM. He was decisive in almost every game with a win in each. He has been at the highest level and will continue to work hard day-by-day to be an international figure of table tennis. You can bet hard because we sure count on him!
What do you expect in the semi-finals?
Now everything is possible. We have achieved the goals required so we are with less pressure to be able to give the maximum game to game and to present our fantastic audience with highly emotive and spectacular games. Whatever happens now we “will never take the eyes off the ball”.
Is there any table tennis fan from other sports in Sporting family?
Cristiano RONALDO is passionate about table tennis. If he were not the best football player of the world he would probably be the best table tennis player in the world. When he played football in Madeira he was a federation practitioner and when he came to Sporting he used to go to the table tennis gym every day to play a little ping pong with us. He also loves this game!
Please describe how Sporting Table Tennis Club looks like inside?
Sporting Clube de Portugal is currently the largest national sporting power in all modalities and intends to be a European example. In table tennis there is a ten-table sports hall that runs daily with three youth coaches having won multiple national youth titles. The Club's management has built a fantastic pavilion - João Rocha - annexed to the football stadium which is considered the home of the modalities that will greatly contribute to the success of Sporting table tennis at European level.
We look forward to see what will happen in the future and how we can help these athletes even more to win more and more victories.