By Dmitry Komarov
Being equally matched on the first day of the event, the European team’s Vladimir Samsonov and Alexey Smirnov battled Gao Ning, Xu Xin and Tang Peng as worthy rivals. However, on the second day of the competition, the squad suffered an overwhelming defeat by Asia — 7:3 (the fifth by the Asian team since the tournament began).
“European table tennis is currently experiencing a crisis,” notes the head coach of the European team, the tournament’s director, Alexander Petkevich, while commenting on the forced substitutions of Timo Boll and Werner Schlager. “This crisis has lasted for a decade already. Samsonov is 35, Smirnov is 34, Schlager is 37 and Maze is over 30. However, they continue to outplay younger men. The club system is to blame. Experienced athletes are holding onto every opportunity to earn money, hampering youngsters from revealing their true potential.” Despite the ‘one country — one player’ rule, the Asian team comprised four Chinese members, although they performed under different flags. Summing up the results of Minsk’s forum, the President of the European Table Tennis Federation, Stefano Bozi, noted that he views the matches as an opportunity to enhance the popularity of table tennis in Europe and its level of play.
The best player of the European team was Alexey Smirnov (Russia) while Xu Xin of China was recognised best on the Asian team. The prize fund at the Minsk event was 85,000 Euros, with the winning team awarded two thirds of the sum. The next European stage between the East and the West is to take place in Paris, with the Asian stage being hosted by Beijing, as is traditional.