From the German Black Forest to Titirangi. It's been a long journey for Ebi Kleiser but table tennis has stuck with him the whole way.
Growing up in a divided Germany the Berlin Wall finally came down when Ebi Kleiser was 27 years old.
But for the young table tennis player from the small town of Vohrenbach in south-west Germany it didn't have a huge impact.
"The unification didn't feel so dramatic to me," he says.
"We didn't have any relations in East Germany and I actually felt closer to France than all that was going on in Berlin.
"It seemed like one big party in the capital but I was living in Freiburg and never made the trip in."
Kleiser began playing table tennis at the age of 10 for his local club and they made it to the highest possible junior league in the south-west region.
He was also a talented football goalkeeper but his older brother had already beaten him to the punch.
"My mother wasn't going to have two keepers in the family because she didn't want to do two loads of dirty football washing," Kleiser says.
"The coaches of my team even came around to my house but they couldn't convince her, my brother had already filled that spot for the family. So I stuck with table tennis."
He picked up his first coaching role at 19 and moved to Freiburg two years later after choosing not to complete compulsory military service.
"It was just how things were at the time," he says.
"You had to appear at the army tribunal and undergo a conscience test to justify why you didn't want to join. I passed the second test but if I'd failed I would've had to go through the courts and risk facing two years in prison, which a lot of men did."
Kleiser instead opted for social service where he worked with handicapped adults to help them into the workforce. His skills as a printer were highly valued and he also completed an occupational therapy course.
It was in 1984 when he met his future Kiwi wife, Monique, in Portugal.
They married in Lebanon in 1993 and settled in Germany where they had their two sons, Daniel and Julian. The family moved to New Zealand in 2005 and now live in Titirangi.
"The beauty of table tennis in New Zealand is there aren't a lot of players but there is still quality opposition," Kleiser says.
"In Germany there are 400,000 players and I'd never have gotten close to the high level I got here."
Kleiser won the national over-45 mixed and team competition B-grade titles in 2009.
He now coaches the juniors at Waitemata Table Tennis Club and is the development officer for Table Tennis Northern Region.
"We're now able to go into schools, teach the game and donate tables.
"This is something we've never been able to do before."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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