73 year old Nigerian table tennis umpire honoured in Morocco says no retirement plan for now
By Taiwo Adelu
London, Sep 3, 2019 (AltAfrica)-For John Peters, officiating in table tennis has become part of his life and has no plan to retire soon despite four decades of service to the sport
Peters, is a 73-year-old Nigerian table tennis umpire, who has been officiating in the ping pong game since 1973. He has been a source of inspiration to both officials and players in the Nigerian table tennis scene and thank goodness, there is no age barrier in table tennis, he can continue to do the job he knows as long as he lives.
The statistics graduate from the University of Ibadan launched his umpiring career in 1973 as part of the technical team at the initial African Games in Lagos, Nigeria
“I made my international debut as an umpire in 1973 and I have been officiating table tennis since then. I must admit that table tennis has taken me around the whole world. Even where I cannot afford to go, table tennis has opened the doors for me to go. So for me, table tennis is life and that is why I cannot stop my romance with the sport.
“I don’t know whether I can be separated from table tennis. It is in my blood and my passion. Fortunately, there is no retirement age in umpiring. That is why I will continue to officiate as long as I am alive,” he said.
The African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF) has also acknowledged his four decades of immense service to table tennis. A surprised honour was bestowed on him at the grand finale of the table tennis event at the ongoing 12th African Games in Rabat, Morocco, on Thursday. The award as a long serving umpire in Africa was given by the President of ATTF, Khaled El-Salhy.
Peters who is attending his seventh African Games in Morocco was described as a role model to upcoming umpires in Africa with his conduct and composure on table.
“I want to commend Peters for his meritorious service to table tennis. For more than 40 years, Peters has been around the game and he has contributed immensely to officiating in Nigeria and Africa. Despite his age, he is still relevant in scheme of things in Africa and I must commend him and I hope other young umpires will take a cue from him,” the ATTF boss said.
Peters has been an umpire in many major tournaments around the world, but at 73, John Peters of Nigeria is not ready to quit the stage, yet. And so this septuagenarian veteran umpire was on duty in Rabat, Morocco during the just concluded All African Games
The Statistics graduate of Nigeria’s premier tertiary institution, the University of Ibadan (UI) in Ibadan, Oyo State, launched his foray into umpiring in 1973 as part of the technical team at the maiden African Games in Lagos, Nigeria.
However, his passion for sport dated back to much earlier. Peters said: “I could remember vividly that my first contact with table tennis was in 1958 when I saw my schoolmates using our teacher’s table to play the game. I quickly fell in love with the sport. Soon, I started beating everybody in my class. Unfortunately, we never had any organised tournament.
“Even in the university I was still involved in the sport having joined the then Nigeria Electric Power Authority (NEPA) as a member of staff. My involvement in the sport at NEPA really helped me. In 1972, the then President of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), Dr Adegboyega Efunkoya, wanted to train a select group of people in umpiring and I was part of the team trained in administering the sport. That was when I got my initial formal education in table tennis umpiring.”
After becoming a national umpire, Peters soon made the cut as one of the umpires for the maiden 1973 African Games in Lagos. Those games on home soil marked his international foray.
After his 1973 umpire debut, Peters officiated at Nairobi 1987, Abuja 2003, Algiers 2007, Maputo 2011, Congo Brazzaville 2015 and now Rabat 2019.
Apart from his continental duties, Peters, the only male Nigerian blue badge umpire, handled matches at the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and Glasgow. He was also at Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. He has also been the Assistant Referee for the ITTF Nigeria Open Challenge Plus since inception in Lagos