The Chairman of the Nigeria Tennis Umpires Association, Kehinde Ijaola, talks about the expectations and plans for officiating this year, while also rating the country’s level of umpiring.

Ijaola says part of what he’s looking forward to this year is an increase in the number of certified umpires in the country as well as more commitment and determination from the officials.

“I’m expecting that before the end of the year—hopefully before the end of the second quarter, if we have the officiating school—we should have more certified officials joining the 10 we have.”

Ijaola said the association is looking to have a Level 2 school in Abuja in April, where a national umpire, who passes through the school, will receive a White Badge.

“I hope officials will be more committed and determined,” he added. “Generally, I’m expecting a better officiating platform for all officials.”

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Kehinde Ijaola, Chairman of the Nigeria Tennis Umpires Association.

While noting that the level of officiating in Nigeria has been on the rise, the Chairman disclosed that more will be done this year to ensure continued improvement- part of which will be an education program for umpires.

“There will be an education program because we want umpires to be more conversant with the rules, because every year the ITF changes rules,” he said. “Also, there will be a special course for all umpires in Nigeria and Iain Smith, who is the head of officiating in Africa, will be the teacher for this program,” Ijaola revealed.

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Nigeria’s Saidu Musa (L), and Iain Smith of South Africa.

Generally, officiating in Nigeria is not what we used to have; it is improving now, Ijaola says, and that’s evident in the fact the some of the country’s officials, including Mr. Saidu Musa and Mrs. Arinola Isa, will, this year, be at international events, including the Tokyo Olympics.

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Arinola Isa during a match.

“We are getting more opportunities and Nigeria is being recognized unlike before that one person has always been the one going,” Ijaola said, regarding the international assignments, which Nigerian officials will be on. “Now, any umpire can be called upon to travel. It means that there is development, improvement, and we are going in the right direction.

“We are being reckoned with by the International Tennis Federation.”