VICTOR BARNA - THE LEGEND
In the early part of 20th century, Ping Pong was played as a pastime over a table with a small wooden bat, pasting pimpled rubber on both sides of the bat. Probably in the third decade, name Ping Pong was changed to Table Tennis bringing into play chop-defence and attacking strokes, changing from ‘pen-hold’ to shake-hand grip. With the appearance of Victor Barna of Hungary, a revolutionary scientific change in the game was established introducing backhand flick, far behind the board chop-defence.
The names of Pele in Football, Dhyanchand in Hockey and Bradman in Cricket thrills every mind and brings very high respect for them. Victor Barna’s Name in Table Tennis can easily be added with these stalwarts for his passionate love, contribution to the game and last but not the least, for his unbelievable records and fantastic stroke-play.
Victor Barna, the reserve left-out of the famous Hungarian Football Team was kind enough to decline Football – gave preference to much less popular game Table Tennis. Hungary might have lost an outstanding left-out but Table Tennis could never be so enriched without Barna. This sort of sacrifice had put Barna to a much higher level fulfillment too for his passionate unflinching love for this white-ball flash-game Table Tennis.
Barna holds an unbelievable record of winning 22 titles in different events of World Table Tennis Championship. He won Men’s Singles Event 5 times including 4 in a row. Unfortunately at the peak of his form, Barna met a serious accident fracturing his playing hand. A steel plate was inserted which diminished his standard of play. Otherwise, he might have doubled his record ! In this condition Barna came to Calcutta with his compatriot Laslo Bellack in April 1938 to play exhibition matches and the spectators became spellbound at The Town Hall watching his wonderful style and stroke- play. Such was the artistry, masterly magic still left in his game!
During my conversation with Barna I asked him the reason for losing in the finals of 1931; otherwise he could have established a unique record of lifting the World Singles Title six years in a row commencing from 1930? His frank confession was that he was so confident of winning the finals in 1931 that previous night of the final match he got himself involved with fun and merry making with his friends till midnight which made him tired and he failed to concentrate fully in the final and ultimately lost. He said with a grave voice that he took a life-lesson that friends were always there but World Championship comes once in a year only. This honest admission reveals another side of Barna’s superior human quality.
For the popularity and propagation of the game, Barna, the Chief Foreign Sales Executive of Dunlops travelled from one part of the world to the other. His ardent love for the game and the spectators as well knew no bounds. In November 1949 Barna and Bergman visited India to participate in Test and Exhibition Matches. Unfortunately Barna became a victim of blood dysentery. Immediately after his arrival at Calcutta he became bed-ridden for 3 days and his Calcutta fans were feeling dejected as they were almost certain that there was no chance of seeing Victor Barna in action. On the day of the match, to our utter astonishment we saw Barna entering the playing arena with his sick body and pale face totally ignoring doctor’s strict advice. He played 2 Singles and 1 Doubles against India and won all the matches in straight sets. 2000 captive spectators wondered with awe and amazement whether it was a miracle or it was Barnas’ love for the game and commitment to his fans. Whatever it may be, such unbelievable human feat to conquer extreme physical ailment is possible only for a Legend like Victor Barna.
At the age of 62 only in the year 1972 Barna suddenly had heart attack at Lima Airport and breathed his last. It was a bolt from the blue not only for Table Tennis but for the entire sports world!
Barns’s contribution to Indian Table Tennis knows no bound. He presented “Barna-Bellack Cup” the trophy for the inaugural Inter-Provisional Championships held in Calcutta in December 1938. He visited India, particularly Calcutta to play as well as to impart coaching several times. His ever-smiling face coupled with artistic stroke-play always kept the spectators spellbound.
As a player Barna was matchless and as a human, simply unparallel. We Salute and express our heartfelt deep love and respect to immortal "BARNA- THE LEGEND"