Young table tennis players from Arsenal and West Ham United were given the chance to earn early bragging rights on Friday, ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash between the two teams at Upton Park.

Arsenal was represented by eight young people from St Aloysius College in Islington, who squared up to their rivals from the West Ham United Community Trust. The event was hosted in the unique surroundings of West Ham’s changing rooms, providing a real sense of occasion for this fun but competitive tournament between the two sets of players.

Arsenal also provided youngsters who have recently earned their Young Officials Award, giving them a chance to hone their officiating skills ahead of the Fred Perry Urban Cup next month, Premier League 4 Sport’s national table tennis competition.

Before the tournament, the two teams were lucky enough to meet Hammers midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, who came down to join in the fun, playing a short game against both sides. The two sets of youngsters were then entered into a knockout tournament with Arsenal’s Franboon Debella overcoming teammate Taylor Bennett in the final in a memorable match played to an excellent standard.

Reflecting on his victory, Franboon commented: “I absolutely loved coming to today’s tournament. It was nice to meet the West Ham team, and we played really well. To play in the changing room at a football stadium was brilliant and to win made it that little bit more special!”

Ross McKinley, Arsenal Premier League 4 Sport coordinator, added: Coming to Upton Park today was a real treat for these young people. They put a lot of effort into the Young Officials course last weekend and deserved this chance. It was also good for them to practise their umpiring skills before February’s Fred Perry Urban Cup, our National PL4S competition. Many thanks to West Ham Community Trust for inviting us and to all the West Ham players for making us feel so welcome and creating such an enjoyable atmosphere. Let’s hope the result can be replicated in Saturday’s match!”

The Fred Perry Urban Cup satellite competitions are taking place next week across north London, giving PL4S participants the chance to play for Arsenal!! For more information, please contact Ross McKinley rmckinley@arsenal.co.uk 0207 704 4147.  

The Premier League 4 Sport initiative is part of the Government’s ambition to offer young people five hours of sport a week, as part of its 2012 legacy plans. It will also address the drop-off in sports participation when young people leave secondary school.

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 17 Jan 2011