Kenya’s youngest referee eyes global competitions
With the resumption of football in the country, the news could not have at a better time for Vincent Omondi, a certified referee in the Football Kenya Federation.
Omondi who boasts of a Football Kenya Federation class three certificate is working towards officiating elite football competitions across the globe.
At only 18 years, Omondi is doing his best as he eyes to officiate in global events in the near future with the FIFA World Cup and CAF fixtures amongst his targets.
Omondi’s passion for refereeing began when he was just 10 years old while still playing football but his passion wasn’t to play the game, it was his affinity for the striped uniform and the whistle.
Though young, Omondi’s spirit is big, his determination is greater than ever. He undertook and earned a refereeing course in Bungoma – the North Western region of Kenya in 2020.
The Ingotse High School alumnus passion and dedication in his line of duty would soon pay off prompting grassroots football tournaments organisers to seek his services within Bungoma regions – an opportunity that he has greatly utilised.
The task might have come as a shock to many but to those who have followed his path keenly, Omondi has been an ever present feature in the Kenyan local football scene – officiating for close to two years now, mostly at the grassroots level.
“I am inspired by James Wandera, a referee and also my immediate neighbour. This is because I like the way he is cool in officiating games and his dedication and discipline to the game,” Omondi told Citizen Digital.
He also revealed current Nzoia Sugar FC chairman Evans Kadenge played a key role in seeing him through the officiating college after spotting his potential and ability while officiating a local football tournament in Nzoia.
“I got support from Chairman Evans Kadenge. He pushed me to pursue the course.” Omondi adds.
The referee seems to have found a niche in whistle blowing and is hoping to get more matches under his belt in the near future as he seeks to climb up the ladder in officiating.
However, it has not been all rosy for Omondi, with nervousness and criticism being the main issue given his age and sometimes intimidation but the he has been able to make lemonades out of the lemons thrown at him.
“I have been able to learn how to be calm during officiating and use each match as a learning experience,” Omondi told Citizen Digital, urging fellow teenagers to take up the sport and embrace the challenges that may come with it.
“Don’t be nervous… be disciplined. Communicate to players, accept criticism and praise, all in equal measure,” he advises.
Despite his commendable job as a young professional, the center referee sadly regrets discrimination from his older colleagues. Omondi says he faces some sort of isolation from officials he thought could offer him direction in the profession – often ridiculed because of his body size and age.
“Because of my small body size, some players undermine me but I don’t really concentrate much on that just focusing more on my duties. My age also makes people not to respect me,” Omondi points out.
Despite this, Omondi’s entire feat is almost unheard of given the fact that most of his age mates would rather be busy with play station games or other activities that appeal to the teens.
Through hard work, persistence and belief in God, the sky could be the limit for the lad. Expressing his desire to officiate in Africa’s top football contests, among them Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) and even beyond – nce he earns the FIFA badge.