National handball referee, Ibrahim Emiabata-Lawal said he quit playing handball for officiating after he sustained a life threatening injury during a build up to a national junior championship in 2006.
Emiabata-Lawal told www.aclsports.com that his coach Danjuma Dikko advised him to venture into officiating since he could no longer play active handball.
He said, “I was once a player before venturing into officiating. I started my career in handball when I was in JSS 1 in 1989. I played up to the state level, where I represented Lagos state in various championships. From my under 12, 15, 18 and 21 up to the senior level at Bauchi 2000,Edo 2002 and Abuja 2004 National Sports Festivals.
“I sustained a life threatening injury during training when I was preparing for a National Junior championship. It took me over six years to recover from the knee injury”.
Emiabata-Lawal said, “On my journey into officiating, thanks to my former coach Danjuma Dikko. When he saw I could not play the game I love so much, he advice me to go into officiating. He told me I can become one of the best referees in the country since he saw age in me.
“Initially, I did not want to get the form because I said to myself that what is there in officiating. I later had a second thought and decided to give it a trial since I know more of the game and have played to certain stage. I eventually did my referee course during the Ocheho Championship in Rowe Park Lagos State in 2012”.
He said after his first officiating at the 2017 National University Games (NUGA) in Markudi, Benue state, his perception about officiating changed.
He further said his dream is to be a certified International Handball Federation referee.
“I made my officiating debut at the 2017 National University Games (NUGA) in Markudi and ever since, I have been training hard, going on internet to search for more knowledge on officiating to the extent of communicating with IHF (International Handball Federation). I am currently a national referee and my plan is to be one of the IHF referees from Nigeria. I know In Sha Allah my dreams of officiating outside Nigeria will become a reality.
“I love handball so much and I wish I could still play the game but since I cannot play, I choose to stay in the game by officiating. I get my encouragements from my coach, friends and teammate who really push me forward. I must not fail to mention the President of Handball Federation of Nigeria; Sam Ocheho who has done so much in the game that is keeps me alive”.
He said the most challenging match he officiated was between Safety Shooters and Niger United at the first phase of the Prudent Energy Handball League in Abuja.
“My toughest match since I started officiating; let me say the match between Road safety and Niger United at the first phase of the Prudent Energy Handball League in Abuja. That was the first time in my life I officiated two leading handball club in the country.
“I give kudos to my pair (senior colleague) in person of Waheed Adeogun. He has been my back bone in officiating and I respect him. During that match he gave me courage to stand on my decision and after that match, I became very bold in officiating”.
He said, “Ever since the inauguration of the new board, the welfare of the referees has been taken to the zenith”.