Cape table tennis match officials earn international umpires licence

Royals Table Tennis Clubs Craig Zimri, Wafeeq Domingo (Duinefontein Table Tennis Club), and Yunus Moyce (Bishop Lavis Table Tennis Club), are among a number of Cape Town Table Tennis officials who completed their ITTF International Umpires exams.
After months of preparation, planning and a marathon 10-hour Zoom session, a number of Cape Town Table Tennis (CTT) officials sat down to take their International Umpires Examination.
Considering the whole Covid-19 situation, this was always going to be a tricky one, as a big portion of the exam involved practical aspects of the game.
The opportunity to write these exams don’t come around every day and, with all regular activities grinding to a halt in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus, taking part in this year’s edition of the exams was off the table.
However, a dogged determination to see it through and with the help of modern technology, the candidates were able to be tested online.
Cape Town Table Tennis chairman, Junaid Baig, said the examination is conducted every two years and the candidates are endorsed by the South African Table Tennis Board (SATTB).
Baig, who is among those who successfully completed the exam, said this year’s exam was challenging in unexpected ways.
“The experience was undoubtedly different. In a Covid-19 world we had to adapt or risk being left behind. There was an added pressure. During 2018, only one individual passed the examination nationally. Cape Town Table Tennis saw 10 candidates prepare for the International Umpires Examinations. No mass gatherings being allowed and no flights resulted in the planned International Umpires workshops being cancelled,” Baig said.

He said the SATTB chose to conduct the workshops on a digital platform and these were held on the two Saturday’s preceding the examination date.

These workshops lasted an average of eight hours.

“The journey to become an (International Table Tennis Federation [ITTF] International Umpire) for table tennis is not a path that one chooses but rather a calling. It often involves the evolution of players into technical officials. It is by no means an easy path,” he said

“It is also noteworthy,” he said, “that four of the candidates obtained results in the 90 percentile range.

“Bear in mind, only 13 candidates passed nationally,” said Baig.

Duinefontein Table Tennis Club chairman, Wafeeq Domingo is among the officials who passed his exams.

Despite not having had much exerience as an umpire, Domingo pulled it off to become a nationally accredited umpire.

“Umpiring is really not my thing. I’m usually the guy controlling the umpire,” he said.

Fellow match official Craig Zimri, representing Mitchell’s Plain Royals Table Tennis Club, emerged top of the class with a 94% pass.

He said he now owns what is known as a White Badge qualification that allows him to perform duty at international events.

“Hopefully, in a few years time, I can have a go at earning my Blue Badge, which would allow me to officiate at the Olympics,” he said.

Ultimately, nine out of 10 candidates from clubs across the city, passed their exams, with one dropping out due to a bad internet connection, said CTT umpires convenor, Genevieve Lentz, from Bonteheuwel.

Lentz, who obtained her international umpires qualification in 2006, knows all too well about the stresses of preparing for these exams.

However, she is also very much aware of the rewards that come with obtaining the necessary credits to officiate at the highest level.

In 2017 she became the first female table tennis referee in Africa and did duty at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games in Beijing and London, respectively.

Since then she’s made it her mission to encourage others to follow suit. As part of a plan to develop umpires in Cape Town, she conducted various workshops prior to the lockdown.

“Subsequently, the SA Table Tennis Board asked me to conduct level 3 and 4 umpires courses to prepare the candidates for the International Umpires exam,” she said.