Hockey: Obalo’s 21-year journey to Commonwealth Games
For the hockey lovers in Kenya, Peter Obalo is a name that certainly rings a bell in their ears as one of the greatest referees the nation has ever had.
The legendary figure in the sport is now making waves as he will team up with a South African as the only Africans to take up full officiating responsibilities at the Commonwealth Games slated for July 28 in Birmingham, England.
For Obalo, this will definitely be his major top assignment after spending the better part of his career doing duty with the juniors.
For the 36-year-old, the sport first caught his eyes in Mombasa 21 years ago.
“I started my club hockey in 2001 playing for Mombasa Institute. I was a one-club man for the institution now known as Technical University of Mombasa. I was with them for 12 years,” Obalo said during an interview.
In 2013, luck hit a big obstacle when things briefly went south.
Obalo’s dream of continuing to play hockey was over after his club pulled out of the Kenya Hockey Union leagues citing financial constraints.
Venturing into unfamiliar territories, Obalo decided his love of hockey wasn't going to have a sudden demise.
Obalo chose to try umpiring. His desire to continue being part of the game even off the pitch was fuelled more after witnessing poor officiating during the national secondary school games.
“While watching secondary school games, I was pissed off with an umpire who was very biased against one team. I felt for the boys who were getting the short end of the stick.
“After the match, I told the umpire that he was killing the spirit of the boys with his poor decisions. The umpire challenged me to attend the next upcoming umpire training so that I can become an umpire. I took up the challenge and here I am," Obalo recalled.
Obalo got his first umpiring cap in 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa, during the Africa Cup of Nations, where he also received his FIH international badge.
The incredible referee also had his work cut out well for him during the Youth Olympics U-18 competition in Argentina, where he officiated Argentina and Zambia matches, among others.
Obalo was also part of the umpires who officiated during the 2019 Olympic qualifiers in South Africa in 2019.