Mphahama to umpire in African Games



MASERU – Top Lesotho table tennis umpire, Rethabile Mphahama, will become the country’s first official to officiate at the upcoming African Games scheduled for Ghana in March. Mphahama, 43, will make his debut at the continental competition which will be held in the three Ghanaian cities of Accra, Kumasi, and Cape Coast, from March 8-13.

Table tennis has been part of the African Games since 1973 in Lagos, Nigeria, following the first edition of the games in 1965 in Brazzaville, Congo. This will be the 24th edition of the African Games, following the previous 11th edition of the then-All Africa Games and the previous 12th edition of the now-African Games.

“This is going to be my maiden appearance at the continental games, and I will be the first Mosotho table tennis umpire to officiate at the games,” said Mphahama in an interview with Public Eye this week. Mphahama, who is also the former president of the Lesotho Table Tennis Association (LTTA), said he had to apply in order to officiate at the games.

“We got invitations to apply, and I applied, and this is done through the national associations,” he said. Mphahama said international umpiring is not an effortless exercise, as it needs one to do a lot of studying and to stay focused.

“One must work hard in order to be an international umpire. There are certain rules exams to pass and stay relevant.” Mphahama has officiated in some of the biggest international table tennis events, like the World Table Tennis Contender and the World Table Tennis Championships.

His last international table tennis umpiring was at the Southern African championships, which were held in Botswana from June 29 – July 3 last year. Mphahama also officiated at the World Table Tennis Contest and the World Table Tennis championships, which were both held in South Africa last year, in January and May.  “Among some of the international competitions I officiated at before include the Regional Championships four times, the World Table Tennis Contender, and the World Table Tennis Championships, both once,” he said.

Mphahama started his umpiring career in 2004. At the time, there were only two of them, him and ’Matiisetso Khomo. Both became the only Lesotho international table tennis umpires since 2009. But Khomo is no longer active, and Mphahama remains the sole Lesotho international table tennis umpire among the 20 to 30 national table tennis umpires.

Mphahama began as a table tennis player during his schooling days as a youngster though he was just an average player. “I played table tennis at the high school level and again when I was a student at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), but I was not a top player who could play for a big team (at school) or a home team,” he said.

Mphahama started to be involved in the administration of table tennis after that and, at the same time, started to practice umpiring. He then took a basic umpiring course and a basic coaching course thereafter. Afterwards, he became part of the International Table Tennis Federation’s (ITTF) umpiring mentorship programme. He now holds an International Umpire Certificate.

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