With the inevitable clash with one of the biggest sporting spectacles in the world, the CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis promoters would be hoping that at least the table tennis fraternity, if not genuine sports lovers, would not turn its back on the tournament during the second edition, which will commence from Thursday at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati sports complex.
As Joao Monteiro, the Portuguese veteran who will be leading Maharashtra United would hope to avenge 2017's semifinal loss to eventual champion Falcons TTC during the tournament-opener, the 34-year-old veteran would also be looking forward to Friday night's World Cup football clash between his home team Portugal and title contenders Spain.
After all, Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese football sensation, used to be his sparring partner at times during Monteiro first stint with the Sporting academy in Lisbon. Monteiro recalls that Ronaldo also being a Sporting mate would be a regular in the table tennis hall. “Ronaldo enjoyed playing table tennis. Almost everyday before practice, he would come with a few friends and play with us. Even now he mentions table tennis as his hobby,” Monteiro told Sportstar after his team's training on Wednesday.
READ: Golden point should be introduced in Pro Tour, says Monteiro
Is Ronaldo as good a paddler as a footballer? “He is a good player. If he had played more, he would be a good table tennis player. But, he is the best footballer in the world, so I think he made a good choice,” Monteiro chuckles.
Having led Portuguese table tennis' rise, thanks to the team's fifth-place finish at the London Olympic in 2012 and the team gold at the European championship two years later, Monteiro is chuffed to be among the most sought-after sportspersons in Portugal besides footballers. But, he still has a regret of sorts.
“I am a team match lover. I love playing for somebody than playing for myself. This is my sport. Yes, it is primarily an individual sport, but many competitions are team events. I love playing team matches. Many time when I speak with friends, I feel maybe I am not in the right sport because I love playing a team sport. But, I have learnt to deal with it,” Monteiro says as a matter of fact.
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Maharashtra United would be hoping the veteran would help it get off the blocks by upsetting defending champion come Thursday.
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