Former England and Brighton footballer honours 'inspirational' resident with award

A Brighton and Hove Albion football legend has honoured an inspirational local resident with an iconic National Lottery Award.
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Bobby Zamora presented Tim Holtam with his award after it was announced that he had won the Sports category for establishing the Brighton Table Tennis Club.

A judging panel whittled down 3,780 incredible nominees to just seven winners and Tim, from Brighton, faced stiff competition to become the winner in this year’s Sports category.

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When Tim Holtam moved to Brighton in 2005, he found there was no youth club for the sport i n which he excelled as a junior champion - table tennis. So he set one up himself, securing a free room and two worn-out tables.

A Brighton and Hove Albion football legend has honoured an inspirational local resident with a national award. Photo: National LotteryA Brighton and Hove Albion football legend has honoured an inspirational local resident with a national award. Photo: National Lottery
A Brighton and Hove Albion football legend has honoured an inspirational local resident with a national award. Photo: National Lottery

Sixteen years later, the club is now engaging more than 1,500 people from all backgrounds and ages, in 70 weekly sessions.

A spokesperson for the National Lottery said: “Thanks to Tim’s determination to transform lives and create opportunities for all, the club provides people with positive role models and a place to train, but also with an identity, a sense of belonging and purpose.

“While they have helped develop a Paralympic Gold Medallist and national champions; it's their outreach work in schools, youth centres, prisons and with asylum seekers that has really made a difference. Today the training programme includes those with Down’s Syndrome, ex-prisoners, and people living with long-term health conditions, as well as high performance players.”

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In 2016, it became the UK’s first Club of Sanctuary, recognising its work with refugees and asylum seekers, providing table tennis lessons to 80 unaccompanied refugee children from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Kurdistan, Algeria and Vietnam. Hoang Nguyen, a teenage refugee from Vietnam, went on to become the first of many qualified table tennis coaches.

Last year, as one of three partners, they opened a new community food hub, which includes a new café serving food on a donation basis.

Tim said: “I firmly believe that sport can be used as a powerful tool to engage people from all ages and transform lives if you give them the opportunity. You’ve got someone who is in their 80s, someone who is 10, you’ve got the national Down’s syndrome champion, or you’ve got someone from Sudan or Syria. It’s just people playing table tennis. It’s not about their label.

“I'm absolutely delighted to have won this award and really want to emphasise that Brighton Table Tennis Club is very much a team effort. We have collectively built such an amazing group of people all working together to install a lifelong of table tennis and a positive sense of community in all of our players.

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“It is a great feeling to still look at what's coming up next and sense that we are only just getting started. I am convinced that what grassroots sport needs is more community activists motivated by social value.”

Football legend and former England player, Bobby Zamora, visited Brighton Table Tennis Club to present Tim with his trophy and congratulate him on his achievement.

He said: “What Tim has created here through Brighton Table Tennis Club is just fantastic. It’s amazing to see people of all ages and abilities standing round a table and playing together, it really does feel like an extended family.

“Tim’s project provides a sense of belonging and purpose for children in care, asylum seekers and all members of society. It really demonstrates the power of sport. It’s magic.”

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The National Lottery Awards are an annual celebration of inspirational people who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.

Winners in each category received a £5,000 cash prize for their organisation and a trophy.