Enthusiastic kids from the tender age of five to twelve numbering 160 enjoyed three hours of on-court fun during a festival organised by the Tennis Federation of Cambodia at the Beeline Arena yesterday to mark the World Tennis Day.
To the sheer delight of the International Tennis Federation, Cambodia was the first in Asia to raise the curtain on the celebrations connected with this historic day, the theme of which is grassroots development to ensure greater participation in the game.
Each and every participant in the festival had logos of the TFC and ITF painted on their cheeks before getting play time on the 10 mini courts specially set up in the arena.
“It was miles of smiles and we could not have hoped for any thing bigger, brighter or better. No one could have missed the sparkle, and I had this feeling that our future has already been defined,” TFC secretary general Tep Rithivit told the Post yesterday.
Apart from playing among themselves in shorter stints with modified scoring, some lucky ones had the privilege of knocking a few with the country’s Davis Cuppers, Bun Kenny and Long Samneang. But the magnet of the show was undoubtedly the Federation’s Global Goodwill Ambassador Hisae Arai, a former Miss Japan beauty pageant winner who chose to pit her tennis strength against the kids and enjoyed the outing as much as them.
“This was a unique experience. To see so many kids enjoying tennis really lifted my spirits,” Arai told the Post.
To make the climax a bit more interesting, the TFC coaching staff selected eight of the best performers for a series of tie-break competitions. The idea was not to pick the best but to see how best they performed in match-like conditions.
Phnom Penh’s Don Bosco may be the newest school to join the TFC’s junior program but they had 20 kids in the mix. Some of their parents made it to the arena too, despite the fact that at about the same time a teachers-parents meeting was scheduled at the school.
At the end of it all a participation certificate was presented to every one. The Federation also took good care of the hungry and the thirsty. Every player got a snack pack from The Blue Pumpkin and drinking water flowed non-stop from Aquafina, the two sponsors stepping in to make it a memorable event.