In this exclusive interview, JOSEPH ODOEKWU of SPORTS INTELLIGENCE MAGAZINE had a chat with one of Nigeria’s Badminton Umpire NAOMI ADEOYIN OYINLOYE. The newly upgraded Badminton Confederation of Africa (BCA) Certificated Umpire broke a long-term jinx to become the First Nigerian Umpire to be certificated since 2000. NAOMI, an Umpire cum Zoologist, describes herself as a light which shone in the dark, as her upgrade came when the coronavirus outbreak hit global sporting activities, she bares her mind.
Congratulations on your upgrade as a BCA certified Umpire, how do you feel about it?
I feel fantastically awesome about the development, and I give God the glory for that.
You broke a 20-year jinx to become the first Nigerian to get the BCA certification, what’s the secret behind that?
First, I think it all started with the fact that I work towards continuous improvement in officiating and I made that my priority. Second, I started officiating even when I was a player in 2004. It was at state level, then NUGA Games, and sometimes zonal underage championships.But in 2018, I became a National Umpire when the Board of Badminton Federation of Nigeria under the leadership of Barr. Frank Orbih took the bull by the horn and organized a National Umpires course in Abuja. It was a long-awaited course which came after a 15 year drought. I eventually had the opportunity to become a national umpire, and that accreditation gave me the opportunity to feature as an Umpire at national and international competitions.
You said you officiated at the NUGA Games, did you ever play and win medals for your institution at that level?
Obviously, all my accomplishments were at the University level I never had the opportunity to play for Nigeria. I represented my institution University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (UNAAB) at the NUGA games and also won medals for them. I was also picked as one of the best who represented Nigeria at the West Africa Games in 2008 in Ghana, and then the 29th edition of the World University Games which took place in Taipei, China in 2017.
Your upgrade came during the coronavirus outbreak era (April 9), would you prefer to be called a Badminton-coronavirus Umpire?
(Laughs) Nooo!!!!, I will not want to be seen or addressed from the negative side as a product of the cornovirus. Rather I will want to be seen as a light that shone in the midst of darkness to brighten the day.The pains, uncertainty, confusion and challenges which the coronavirus came up with made the global community lose focus on every other thing. The media and everyone both in Nigeria and around the world were talking about the sadness inflicted by the coronavirus. Suddenly, my upgrade came. It brought relief and joy to everyone in the Badminton Community and Sports sector in Nigeria.Seeing me as a Badminton-Coronavirus Umpire is out of it, I am a symbol of light.
If you are to talk with some athletes today on personal development, what would you be telling them?
I will advise them to acquaint themselves with Badminton laws, code of ethics and the various regulations. Development should not just be limited to skills in playing the game, knowledge of the laws and ethics is key for the general development of an athlete as it will give them leverage even as players. Take for example, knowledge of the law makes a player to know when to make a demand on the field of play without being penalized as we have seen cases of players who make a demand while playing and get penalized.
Officiating generally seems to be a male dominated affair, do you see gender as a challenge?
Gender is not a challenge for me. We are all given equal opportunities to develop and I believe it’s a matter of commitment and the quality of time one devotes and ones capability from the local, state and international level all matters too.
Are you the first female Umpire to attain this height in Nigeria?
No, I am not the first female. The first female is Mrs Grace Asagba who happens to be among the five who got certificated in 2000 when five Nigerians reached that level.
Now that you are a BCA certificated Umpire, what else are you looking up to in this career?
Next I am looking forward to becoming a BWF Umpire, then I will think of the next step. BWF Certification requires a lot of intercontinental experience over a period of time before assessment. Becoming a referee also starts at the national level to continental and that depends on the grade of the championship and then intercontinental although it goes side by side umpiring. Right now, I just want to be a BWF Umpire, then maybe later in the years to come, I become a BWF referee.
On a final note, what advise would you recommend on post-coronavirus era, do you think we should still continue with social distancing, wearing of masks and so on at stadiums?
Once the coronavirus pandemic is over, I strongly believe that public health experts should rather be in a position to advise on that if these measures should continue at stadiums, particularly social distancing, wearing of masks amongst others. But personal hygiene should be seen as a culture and not because of the outbreak of a disease or virus. However, I will want to concentrate more on the present situation which is the covid-19 era, I am using this medium to strongly encourage everyone to adhere strictly with the precautionary measures recommended by government agencies, and the World Health Organizations. Let us wash our hands regularly with soap under running water, use of alcohol based sanitizers, wearing of face masks and social distancing. If we keep to these, then we will all be fine.
Thank you for the time to speak with us
Thank you too for coming around