11 Jul 2017

The dream was to play for his country but for Francis Frimpong, a graduate of the University of Education, Winneba in Ghana; the dream was never realised.

He competed at the 2008 West African University Games hosted by the University of Ghana but top level play was never to be his lot; however Francis Frimpong did find another route to high level, he followed the path of officialdom. He is Ghana’s only blue badge umpire; in that capacity he has travelled the world.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor  

In recent times he has umpired in such tournaments as the World Championships, on the ITTF World Tour, at Olympic Games Qualification events, the African Games and the Africa Top 16 Cup.

Currently, he is attending the Northwest Normal University in Lanzhou, Gansu Province, China; the opportunity having been possible following a grant provided by the Chinese government.

He spoke to Olalekan Okusan, the ITTF-Africa Press Officer

In addition to playing table tennis as a form of physical exercise; it is a game that virtually everybody can play. All persons irrespective of age, gender and race love it.

I am fascinated with all the mechanics and scientific principles applied to table tennis. It involves making decisions in microseconds due to the speed of the ball, the spin it carries and the trajectories. These characteristics have positive effects on my daily life.

I played in many competitions, including national open championships and the national table tennis league. I also won many matches for the University of Education, Winneba during my undergraduate studies. A memorable moment was the Men’s Singles quarter-final match at the 2008 West African University Games, when I lost three-nil to Quadri Aruna.

I value fairness in life especially when there is the need to follow a set of rules or guidelines. As an umpire, I just love to make sure players compete fairly within the spirit of sportsmanship, observing all rules to obtain an unbiased result without unfair advantages. This makes me so happy whenever I receive invitation for any competition.

I always wanted to study alongside playing table tennis but generally, the support system for intellectual in sports in Ghana has not been favourable. It was quite a challenge to train well for top competitions and still keep up with the pace of academics. Therefore, in order to remain in the game, I decided rather to give attention to the rules and regulations through its application. I knew being serious with it would take me closer to the highest competitions even if I was not playing again.

Getting to the table is just like walking into your office, you must dress correctly in your suit, you need to be as smart as the speed of the table tennis ball in play as well as making clear decisions in microseconds and ensure fairness throughout the match.

Currently I am a postgraduate research student in China majoring in Sports Biomechanics, Human Movement Science. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education and a Diploma in Sports Coaching; both from the University of Education in Winneba, Ghana. I moved to China for postgraduate studies following an award of a scholarship by the government of China which comprises tuition fees, accommodation, a comprehensive medical insurance and a monthly allowance.

Besides other important and personal reasons, I chose China over two other countries who also offered me similar scholarships at the same time, because here I have the opportunity to learn and research the sport that I love so much; it is their national sporting discipline.

I usually handle such matches with the necessary attention it needs by focusing on the ball in each rally and making sure all vital rules are observed by all players. Irrespective of the top players, I make sure no one gets unfair advantages in the matches.

It feels great to be introduced on the world stage and get to hear my name and that of my motherland mentioned. Moreover, I always feel privileged whenever I realise most times that I am the youngest umpire amongst all officials at one competition or the other.

There was a competition where I stood as the only umpire from Africa and similarly on several occasions as the only Ghanaian. Nevertheless, I never forget the day I received a confirmatory message for progressing as a blue badge umpire. I will want to continue umpire as long as I have the strength, time and opportunity to do so. Having experienced the World Championships, I want to work harder and make it to the Olympic Games in the near future.

There has been great improvement in Africa. The level of play has improved in most African countries thanks to talent discovery and development programmes organised by the African Table Tennis Federation. More importantly the current performance and rankings of African players has improved on the world stage.

 

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Umpires and Referees Francis Frimpong