There was no such team in table tennis. TTC Neu-Ulm has committed to four world class stars for the upcoming season. What seems astonishing would not have been possible without the war in Ukraine.
Dusseldorf vs Saarbrücken in the German Cup Final. Dusseldorf vs Saarbrücken in the Champions League semi-finals.
And Saturday again in Frankfurt: Borussia Dusseldorf vs. 1. FC Saarbrücken in the final of the German Table Tennis Championships (2pm / Sport1 and Sportdeutschland.TV). But this domination could soon end. Bundesliga rivals TTC Neu-Ulm have put together a squad for next season, which world number one and Germany international Dmitriy Ovcharov says: “In terms of attractiveness and global positions, this is probably the best team ever called up in Europe.”
Because in addition to Ovtcharov himself, he will also play the next for Neu-Ulm: Japanese Tomokazu Harimoto “Miracle Child”. Swedish vice world champion Trols Morigaard. And fourth place Olympian Lin Yun-ju of Taiwan. Even the European champion in Dusseldorf, Timo Ball, is happy with this famous competition. Since the four stars were mainly committed to the Champions League, the TTC wants to use a large part of the Russian national team in the Bundesliga, which lost the European Championship final to Germany last September.
Ovcharov expects a clear position
The fact that Ovtcharov, born in Kyiv, and the three best players in Russia will belong to one team in the future, also shows that the history of TTC Neu-Ulm says nothing about the great sporting ambitions. But more about the consequences of Russia’s aggressive war in Ukraine on sport.
Ovtcharov ZDF sports studio clearly stated: “I do not expect young athletes to put themselves on TV or in newspapers. But when I see the boys, I have to see a clear position that they are against war.” The fact that Neu Ulm player Florian Ebner “doesn’t worry about everyday life in this team” has something to do with the particular development of his club. And also with the careers of three young Russian players.
Russian teenagers have been living in Ulm for years
TTC Neu-Ulm was founded just three years ago by media entrepreneur Ebner. Thanks to the wildcard, the professional team entered the Bundesliga in 2019 and in the Champions League for the first time in 2021. In the intervening year, Ebner signed with Russian coach Dmitriy Mazonov, who has been living in Germany since 1992.
Aside from his work as a coach in the Bundesliga, Mazunov has for years led a coaching group led by young Russians Maxim Grebenev (20), Lev Katzman (21) and Vladimir Sidorenko (20), who moved to Germany as teenagers. Katsmann and Sidorenko already play for the club New Ulm. Grebnew was hired by TSV Bad Königshofen for the next season before the war began.
With war, there is no perspective
However, the invasion of Ukraine means that Russian players are no longer allowed to play in international tournaments or in the Champions League. The ambitious TTC suddenly had no team for the most important competition – nor did three of Europe’s greatest talents have sporting prospects.
“This exclusion now comes two years after Corona,” said Ebner of the German news agency. “So all three should be concerned that they haven’t played in international tournaments for several years from the age of 18. It’s usually difficult for them to catch the international lead again after that.”
After the Russian attack, New Ulm briefly considered terminating the contracts with Grebniu, Katsman and Sidorenko. “But it only took a second to make a decision,” Ebner said. “They’ve been away from home for so long, they’ve devoted their lives to table tennis. I would have found that prospect unacceptable.”
Ovcharov sees it the same way. This is despite the fact that he left his Russian club, Vakl Orenburg, in protest of the war after nearly twelve years. But one result of this is that in April two people were suddenly looking for a Champions League team: Ovcharov as a player, and Ebner for his club. They both know each other for years and quickly come to an agreement. Exactly at this moment TTC Neu-Ulm’s big transfer attack began.
Ebner and Ovtcharov build a great team
Ebner said, “Dima asked me: Who do you want? And I said, ‘My son’s favorite player is Harimoto. He wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously.'” “But he just said to me: Florian, give me two days. And it worked. I wouldn’t have called Harimoto’s manager on the phone. But Dmitriy Ovcharov has such charm and so many relationships: he just called him.”
Ovcharov already played with Lynn in Orenburg. Ebner arranged Mooregaard’s transfer. Since the launch of the new “World Table Tennis” series of tournaments, top players have less time to play with a club. To be able to dispense with everyday life in the league and just play in the Champions League is very attractive for the stars in this category. However, the TTC organizer also received a Bundesliga license for Ovtcharov, Möregardh and Lin, because his club really wanted to get to the final tournament of the German Table Tennis Cup, which takes place every year in Neu-Ulm. (dpa)