He stands out as one of the region’s youngest referees. At 26, Israel Mayian Mpaima is among five registered Fifa Elite officials, an exclusive club of some sorts.
But it has not been an easy journey to the top for the accountant from Narok.
”We had a match in school back in the year 2000 and when we scored, the other side disputed and a fight broke out. It was very sad because we had no referee to make a decision and so the game was spoilt. I decided to buy a whistle and from then on, I have never looked back,” Mpaima reminisces.
But their was initial resistance from his family who saw refereeing as just another past time and wanted him to concentrate on other ‘serious’ things instead.
”For my people who are very conservative (Maasai community), making them understand my interest was difficult because they saw no need in investing time and money in such careers. I saw it as a huge door slammed on my face,” says Mpaima.
But he did not give up and his persistence has already paid handsome dividends.
Not only does he officiate Kenyan Premier League (KPL) matches but has also overseen Africa Champions League, Africa Confederations Cup, Under-20 Dakar 2015 Africa qualifiers and the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifying matches this year.
”I have been so lucky to come this far and I thank God. This is so rewarding for me and I look forward to more,” he says, adding: ”I had to undergo a thorough training to get to this stage. It takes sacrifice and commitment. For a lot of people, this career is not entirely appreciated but it has rewards.”
Besides refereeing, Mpaima also works as an accountant at the Narok county government. ”I am lucky to have very understanding bosses and also I manage my schedule very well,” says the Litein High School alumni who has reserved the weekends for his refereeing duties.
Having scaled great heights in such a short time, Mpaima has now set his sights on the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
”This is everybody’s dream and I hope to be among the chosen referees. I am still young and will learn much more. The federation and my colleagues are also very supportive,” he said.
His parting shot? ”Upcoming footballers and even referees should have patience and their stars will shine. Self-belief will sell them through.”