Three local umpires left for South Africa where they will attend a high profile two-week officiating course.
The three are Batisani Makhiwa, Charles Mosokomane and Atang Mokganyane and are the first ever Batswana to reach the level two umpire of International Tennis Federation (ITF).
However another level 2 umpire, or White Badge, Tigele Nleya, could not attend due to work commitments. Upon completion, the trio will, if they do well, attain the level 3 qualifications, known otherwise as Bronze.
It has been difficult for African umpires to progress as fast up the ranks, as there is currently only one Gold umpire in Africa, Ian Smith of South Africa.
In between the Gold and the Bronze, there is Silver and usually it takes years of doing well in a lot of ITF courses to get past the step.
A technical officer at the Botswana Tennis Association, Boikobo Gaolebalwe, expressed happiness over the development and told Sunday Standard that the course should go a long way in raising the standard of tennis in the country.
“We are quite impressed to have representatives at this level. We are usually underrated by other countries; we might not have, as yet, produced noticeable players but administratively, we are advanced. What could be a better testimony than an ITF recognition” he said, adding that one of the umpires, Mokganyane, was recently invited by the ITF to a Portugal-held Estoril Open and will be leaving on the second of May. The tournament will feature household names like Roger Federer and other prominent tennis players.
Gaolebalwe also emphasized on the importance of officiating at this stage, saying that it may as well be possible for Mokanyane to start earning a living through tennis only. He explained that there is a rank list of umpires around the world that is kept and when one’s time comes, they are duly invited to officiate in such tournaments.
He, however, could not say where the other umpires fall on the list. He described the sublime achievement as a milestone for BTA as it fertilizes their chances of one day turning professional. He also explained that it is through having highly qualified personnel in one’s association that they lure a consideration for hosting ITF centers. Previously, the BTA has been prejudiced when lobbying for hosting high profile tournaments owing to their uninspiring achievements with players.
“Our mandate is being achieved, I can confidently say we are not only developing players, but we are also developing administrators as well,” he said.
The technical officer also added that, for the association, it means, in future they will spend less hosting international tourneys since they would not have to lure umpires from outside the country. The local umpires have before officiated in high profile tournaments as chair umpires in tournaments like the African Junior Championships.