Ping-pong has become hugely popular in recent years, and now Dubai is joining the cities where the sport reigns.
Ping-pong's Dubai SPiN doctors are just batty about the whole idea
Ping-pong is possibly one of the last sports that you may associate with glamorous nightlife, but all that is about to change when SPiN Dubai opens its doors to the public on Thursday. The ping-pong social club is billed as a place where you can hang out, listen to music, enjoy a drink, eat a slap-up meal - and play, too.
The co-founders of SPiN Dubai, Dani and Rami Alyamour, think it's just what the city's nightlife scene needs.
"SPiN is the perfect answer to nightclub fatigue in Dubai, where the only available activity isn't just milling around and looking at each other," says Rami. "We think it will work very well because it's fundamentally unique. By combining the unusual mixture of ping-pong, signature cocktails and delicious food, all set to the soundtrack of top international DJs, SPiN Dubai is going to be the alternative to the status quo."
This will be SPiN Galactic's first venture outside of North America - the group already has successful venues in New York, Toronto, Los Angeles and Milwaukee. The Alyamour brothers, who were born to Iraqi parents in Dubai and have there all their lives, were already big ping-pong fans when they decided to bring the concept home.
"We have been playing the game from a very young age, so when we came across SPiN in Toronto, we thought that this is exactly what Dubai needs," says Dani. "We moved quickly, and are extremely happy to bring this amazing concept to this part of the world."
According to the brothers, SPiN is for everyone from amateurs to diehard fanatics. The club's staff are trained by professionals and will be on hand to offer pointers to those who have never played before. Pros can play other pros or participate in the Dirty Dozen - a tournament that has been described by SPiN Galactic co-founder Jonathan Bricklin as a combination of WWF Wrestling and Pro Tennis, where 12 pros battle it out every Friday.
As for the appeal of ping-pong, the brothers say that it offers something for everybody.
"It can be very serious and disciplined and at the same time very fun and light-hearted," says Rami. "The sheer action of it - the hits, the misses - is an extraordinary experience and will bring a smile to anyone's face."
Although the arrival of SPiN Dubai might make things official, the UAE already has an active scene.
That will be in evidence at the invite-only SPiN opening on Wednesday night, when Wiktor Gniewek, the table tennis coach at Al Shabab Club and the founder of the Dubai Table Tennis Academy (DTTA), will play a show match against Rashid Abdul Hamid Omar - one of the UAE national team's players - during the opening of SPiN. Gniewek grew up surrounded by table tennis, which led to him also becoming engrossed in the sport; his parents played for Poland's national team, and he first began playing at the age of 8.
After moving to Dubai in 2006, he decided to give the city's many table tennis fans a space to meet and practise together, launching the DTTA in 2011 at the Al Shabab Club, where serious table tennis players meet every Friday. "It's a great place to come after work, play some sport and relax after a hard day in the office," he says. "Table tennis helps you to lose weight and keep the body in good shape."
The academy draws a variety of nationalities, with people from France, Canada, Pakistan and the Philippines ranging in ages from 20 to 60. And interest is on the rise: registered members jumped to 68 this year from the 2011-2012 season.
The capital's table tennis scene is also strong, jumping to 160 registered players from fewer than 10 back in 1996, says Richard Lim, the founder of the Abu Dhabi Table Tennis Association, which calls Al Jazira Sports Club home.
While a mix of nationalities frequent the club, Lim says Filipinos in particular seem to enjoy playing the sport in the capital.
"We're passionate about playing the sport back home," he explains. "I've been into table tennis since I was 7 years old and I continued to play when I moved here. So a lot of Filipinos are simply carrying on doing what they enjoyed to do back in our home country."
Want to get involved? Contact the following for information on table tennis in your area
• SPiN Dubai, Wafi, Dubai. Call 04 370 7707 or visit www.spindubai.com
• ASTTIG – the Association of Table Tennis in the Gulf. Visit www.asttig.org
• Dubai Table Tennis Academy. Visit www.dubaitta.com
• Abu Dhabi Table Tennis Association. Search ‘Abu Dhabi Table Tennis Association’ on Facebook
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