The African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF) on Thursday, August 29, acknowledged the immense contribution of Nigeria’s John Peters for his four decades service to table tennis.
At the grand finale of the table tennis event at 12th African Games in Rabat, Morocco, Peters was honoured 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 the table.
“I want to commend Peters for his meritorious service to table tennis. For more than forty years, Peters has been around table tennis and he has contributed immensely to officiating in Nigeria and Africa. Despite his age, he is still relevant in the 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 table tennis 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 of the game is on duty in Rabat, Morocco.
The Statistics graduate of Nigeria’s premier tertiary institution, the University of Ibadan (UI), 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 table tennis 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. That games on home soil marked his international foray.
His words: “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.”
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 handled matches at the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and Glasgow. He was also at Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
The only male Nigerian blue badge umpire, Peters is not ready to quit 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 admitted.