Pictures: Fuad Esack
As a lawyer, he knows all about the preparation required to argue a good case in court.
Sitting down for this particular exam would require a similar approach as it involved knowing the International Table Tennis Federation’s rules and regulations to a T.
After months of preparation, planning and a marathon Zoom session, Baig and a number of Cape table tennis officials could breathe a collective sigh of relief when passing their examination.
The opportunity to write these exams doesn’t come around every day and, with all regular activities grinding to a halt in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus, taking part in this year’s edition of the exams was off the table.
However, a dogged determination to see it through and with the help of modern technology, the candidates were able to be tested online.
Baig, a member of the Salt River-based Community House Table Tennis Club, said the examination is conducted every two years and the candidates are endorsed by the South African Table Tennis Board (SATTB).
He said this year’s exam was challenging in unexpected ways.
“The experience was undoubtedly different. In a Covid-19 world we had to adapt or risk being left behind. There was an added pressure.
“During 2018, only one individual passed the examination nationally.
“Cape Town Table Tennis saw 10 candidates prepare for the International Umpires Examinations. No mass gatherings being allowed and no flights resulted in the planned International Umpires workshops being cancelled,” Baig said.
He said the SATTB chose to conduct the workshops on a digital platform and these were held on the two Saturday’s preceding the examination date. These workshops lasted an average of eight hours.
“The journey to become an International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) International Umpire for table tennis is not a path that one chooses but rather a calling.
“It often involves the evolution of players into technical officials. It is by no means an easy path,” he said
“It is also noteworthy,” he said, “that four of the candidates obtained results in the 90 percentile range. Bear in mind, only 13 candidates passed nationally.”
“I am a firm believer that one must lead from the front. Going through this entire process from obtaining a CTTT league umpires status to a IU while being chairman allowed me to also get a far more broadened view on the obstacles that our technical officials have to endure,” he said.
Ultimately, nine out of 10 candidates from clubs across the city, passed their exams, with one dropping out due to a bad internet connection, said CTT umpires convenor Genevieve Lentz,
Lentz, who obtained her international umpires qualification in 2006, knows all too well about the stresses of preparing for these exams.
In 2017 she became the first female table tennis referee in Africa and did duty at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games in Beijing and London, respectively.
Since then she’s made it her mission to encourage others to follow suit.
As part of a plan to develop umpires in Cape Town, she conducted various workshops prior to the lockdown.
“Subsequently, the SA Table Tennis Board asked me to conduct level 3 and 4 umpires courses to prepare the candidates for the International Umpires exam,” she said.