by Olalekan Okusan
It is a city popular for table tennis having produced some of the finest Egyptian stars which include the Ashour brothers – Moutaz Ashour, President of Egypt Table Tennis Federation (ETTF) and Maged Ashour, head of Egypt’s men’s team. Omar Assar’s uncle, the late Maher Assar was the former captain and coach of Egypt. He introduced the young Omar to the game when four years old.
Omar Assar, a beneficiary of ITTF Scholarship, has played in Sweden, France and Germany plying his trade for top teams, the 29-year-old recently joined GV Hennebont in the French league after spending three seasons in the German Bundesliga.
He spoke on several issues relating to his career, family among others.
“I grew up in the northern part of Egypt in a city called Desouk which was famous for producing many good table tennis players for Egypt. It was my uncle who was then the coach of the Desouk Club, while my father was a volunteer member of the club. So I joined them when I was four and I have not stopped practising in the club since then.” Omar Assar
As a junior player, Assar flourished in Egypt and Africa where his talent at major ITTF tournaments earned several call-ups to camps in Europe;
this also contributed to his early movement to Europe where he started his professional career as a teenager.
“I started my career early in life in Europe and the club I joined in Sweden, Falkenberg then offered the opportunity to play three matches in a season as a junior player. Fortunately for me in one of the league matches in division one, a player was missing and I was given the chance to play because as a junior player, you are expected to start playing in second or third divisions. So I featured for the team in the match and I played very well, I did not lose any match in my first season. So the next season I got a half season contract while in the third season I got a full season contract.” Omar Assar
Apart from Falkenberg, Omar Assar featured for Copenhagen, Halmstad and Lyckeby BTK in the Swedish League.
At 14, Omar Assar for five years enjoyed an ITTF scholarship which afforded him to be part of a training camp in Sweden where he trained alongside some of the best junior players in the world.
“I must admit that the ITTF scholarship really helped me a lot in my career because I had the chance to play lots of competitions across the world as well as attending several top class training camps in Europe and Asia. This opportunity gave me the chance to improve my skills under high level training camps.” Omar Assar.
As the mainstay of the Egyptian men’s team, Omar Assar has already written his name into the history books by setting new African records and putting Egypt on the international table tennis map.
From Sweden, Omar Assar moved to France where he represented Roanne and Istres in the French top division league for two seasons.
In 2017, he joined Werder Bremen in the star-studded German Bundesliga and after one season with Bremen, he signed a two-year contract with Borussia Düsseldorf which is one of the best teams in the world, where he played alongside his idols, Timo Boll, who is former world number one.
“I was honoured to play in Borussia Düsseldorf because it is the club with several records in Europe. I was also honoured to play alongside my teammates and I could describe my moment in Düsseldorf as one of my best experiences in table tennis.
Playing in the German league, I gained so many skills technically and tactically but the most important one is discipline and how to keep going in training because the Germans are very well known with high quality training. This helps me a lot and I hope I can teach it back to young African players to show them that the German way of training is very professional.” Omar Assar
Armed with a degree in business administration, Omar Assar who had featured at 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games in London and Rio is not giving up on winning a medal at the Olympic Games.
“I must admit that the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games necessitated by COVID-19 pandemic has given me enough time to prepare for the Olympics. During the lockdown, I was at home in Germany and I was trying to be active as much as I can with a gym at home. Also my wife pushed me to work harder a lot during and this reflected in my matches at Düsseldorf Masters and I must thank my wife for her support during the lockdown.” Omar Assar
Amidst the lockdown, Omar Assar had to observe the annual Ramadan fasting which he said has been part of him early in life.
“This year Ramadan was very special because I spent it here in Germany with my family. I used to have light training during the Ramadan. I managed this throughout the fasting season. Also we spent this year at home because of COVID-19.” Omar Assar
For Omar Assar, table tennis has taken from grass to glory.
“Table tennis has added so much to my life and shaped my character. For me table tennis is everything and now with my family, I feel it is now balanced, when I was alone, it was very tasking especially when I lose a match but now I take it easy knowing fully well that my family will be there for me. I am more balanced now but table tennis is a huge part of my life and I hope it can keep me on for many years to come.” Omar Assar
As a father, Omar Assar could not hide his feelings, saying that it has taught me patience in life.
“Fatherhood is a very special feeling because it also gives you a big portion of patience. You need to be patient to be a good example for your son and this is also very important and I am enjoying every moment of my fatherhood as everyone is very happy that the baby is healthy.” Omar Assar
Omar Assar has left Borussia Dusseldorf to sign for GV Hennebont of France, where he will be plying his trade in the 2020/2021 season.
“I am honoured to move to one of the greatest clubs in Europe and one of the great French clubs – GV Hennebont. The club is very renowned for having great players such as Olympic champions. I am very proud to join this club and the team is very strong. The French League is very competitive and I hope I can add value to the team to excel in the league.” Omar Assar