Recently, after the semi-final of the Champions League, one of TTC Neu-Ulm’s leading players, Dimitrij Ovtcharov came up with criticism toward the German Bundesliga and the fact that Borussia Düsseldorf’s manager is a part of the supervisory board of the German Bundesliga. After a while, Ovtcharov edited his post and expressed doubts about the continuation of his career in the Bundesliga due to the suspensions and fines against his teammates – Lin Yun-Ju and Truls Moregardh. The situation evolved quickly, and soon Neu-Ulm club announced its withdrawal from Bundesliga and plans to continue playing only in the Champions League. Who is right in this situation? Actually, this is not one of those complex conflicts.
First of all, it’s obvious that Dimitrij Ovtcharov made a terrible decision to make these comments. Neu-Ulm has shown plenty of childish behavior and disrespect toward the fans and the Bundesliga. While other clubs have to write their history step by step and advance to the elite of German table tennis, TTC Neu-Ulm appeared out of nowhere in 2019 and got their place in Bundesliga only because of a wealthy owner. As you might guess, such a club does not get much love from German table tennis fans, and deservedly so.
The current situation just shows what comes with having these wealthy individuals in the league. They know what the rules are, players know what the rules are, and there is nothing wrong with Bundesliga fining anyone, who breaks those rules. If there is a rule that a Bundesliga player cannot play in any other country as long as he’s under a contract with a German club, it must be respected. Ovtcharov’s and Neu-Ulm’s criticism is unfair and has no context. Let’s take a simple analogy from football. Imagine, if Lionel Messi would ask PSG to occasionally allow him to play for Barcelona again. Do you think anyone would allow such nonsense? That’s pretty much what Ovtcharov and Neu-Ulm were unhappy about.
So clearly, Bundesliga has the right in this situation and Neu-Ulm’s withdrawal is not a big deal, in general. They anyway barely played their star players in Bundesliga games, mostly deploying their B squad. From the league’s standpoint, there is no reason to somehow allow a breach of rules for a team that openly downplays Bundesliga importance. Ovtcharov criticized Borussia Düsseldorf’s manager, but if you look at their approach, there is no B-squad. Fans can be sure that in most of the games, they will see Timo Boll, Anton Källberg, and Dang Qiu in action. No matter, whether it’s the German Bundesliga or Champions League. If Ovtcharov and his teammates wanted to play for different teams during this season, they could’ve signed contracts in Sweden or other countries that allow such an approach.
Such conflicts do not benefit table tennis as a sport, and it once again proves that such artificial projects as Neu-Ulm bring more bad than good. Table tennis is a poorly financed sport, compared to other sports, but German Bundesliga is by far the best and most competitive table tennis league in Europe. If players, like Ovtcharov, do not appreciate the opportunity to play there, it’s perfectly fine. At the same time, are there any better options? Chinese Super League rarely invites European players, and the Japanese T-League remains the only lucrative option outside of it.
Some might argue that it’s unfair to criticize Ovtcharov for his loyalty to Neu-Ulm’s policies. But there are two moments. First, nobody forced Ovtcharov to make any comments and then edit them. Second of all, he’s a seasoned veteran who knows the German system and rules perfectly. If he would be one of his younger and foreign teammates, there could be given some benefit of the doubt, since they are less familiar with Bundesliga. Honestly, in this situation, Ovtcharov simply seems to be bitter about his failure to get those crucial wins in the Champions League semi-finals, and his emotions went in the wrong direction. Still, it can’t be an excuse.
In conclusion, we might not see the TTC Neu-Ulm in the next Bundesliga season, and it’s not a loss at all. We never really saw its full power in the Bundesliga anyway. Judging by the table tennis fan reactions on social media, this club won’t be missed. The majority of the fans prefer to see the clubs that evolve and write their history naturally, by winning their way into the Bundesliga, not by simply purchasing it. Hopefully, Bundesliga management will also take a lesson, and won’t approve such clubs in the league again.
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