OFFICIAL’S WHISTLE – Wolfgang Lund – Multilingual survivor

Wolfgang Lund, Swedish-born French Umpire, is now amongst the very best umpires in the world. But his life has not been a smooth path – a cancer left him with […]

Wolfgang Lund, Swedish-born French Umpire, is now amongst the very best umpires in the world. But his life has not been a smooth path – a cancer left him with no hope until the light came again after a tough 2-year fight when he could finally sit on an umpire’s chair again. He shares his incredible story with Michaela Bencova, his colleague and Badzine Columnist for her monthly column “The Official’s Whistle”.

Photos: Badmintonphoto

BADZINE: Wolfgang, you are a BWF certificated umpire from France but you are not really French, aren´t you? Can you tell us your family story to explain that you are truly an “international” umpire?

Wolfgang Lund: I have a rather messy and complicated background! I was born in the Schleswig-Holstein region in the northern part of Germany close to the Danish border. In a small town called Itzehoe, located 60 km northwest of Hamburg.

My mother is German with Hungarian roots (her great grand-father was some kind of gypsy on the Hungarian puszta) and my father a pure Danish Viking. We all moved to the south of Sweden when I was only 8 months old. I was brought up, spent my whole childhood and a part of my adult life in Sweden.

The first time I discovered Paris was during an all-around Europe trip for a month in my early twenties. I immediately fell in love with the town and knew deep down in myself that it was here, in the “City of Lights – La ville lumière” that I wanted to settle down.

But first I wanted to finish off my studies in sociology and history of art at the university in Gothenburg. It took me three more years before I actually decided to moved to Paris in the mid-eighties. I’ve now been living here for more than 25 years.

Swedish is my mother tongue. But due to my parents I also speak and understand Danish and German. And of course English and French. Very practical for an umpire when you want to detect funny insults and rude remarks from players! And sometimes it can be very surprising for some of them…! But as an umpire I’m a 100% pure product “made in France”.

BZI: How did you become an umpire? When and why?

WL: A couple of years after my arrival in the French capital, I started playing badminton on a regular basis.  Of course I had already played some badminton in Sweden during my school-days, but I didn’t start training and learning to play badminton seriously until I came to Paris.

I became a big fan of this sport and wanted to know all the different aspects of it (techniques, tactics, rules, laws…) On the request from the French Badminton Federation I translated into French (together with a French friend) a Swedish instruction book about badminton written by Lars Sologub and Terje Dag Osthassel (at that time Lars Sologub was the head coach for the French National Badminton team). No serious book in badminton techniques and tactics was yet available in French, so there was an urgent need for a referential book on this matter. It almost took us three years of translation before the book was finally published in 1992. Shortly afterward, I started line-judging during the French Open, in 1993 or 1994. It was a great and enjoyable experience. To know that your call (at this period the umpire couldn’t overrule a line judge) could either make a player win or lose a point (or his/her temper!) or even a match filled me with a big sense of responsibility and a desire to be as fair and precise as possible – qualities that later on would become useful and necessary as an umpire. I think what really fired me off was when Lars Sologub at an occasion during the French Open told me that I was an excellent line-judge.

“Why not try to become an umpire?” he suggested. He thought I could become a good one.

BZI: Can you decribe your way up amongst the top BWF Certificated umpires? What is the system of upgrading in France?

WL: I registered for an umpire course for beginners at the end of October 1996. At that time I didn’t have the slightest hint that I was going to become an international umpire a couple of years later. But I felt at ease almost at once, understood the basics of umpiring quickly, studied the rules really hard and the terminology. I practised umpiring during some local tournaments and passed my first exam (local grade) in the beginning of 1997. The practical part of the assessment went very smoothly, but the oral exam could have turned into a fiasco! I can still recall how nervous and tense I felt when the examinator asked the mandatory questions. I managed to give a correct answer to almost all of them, except for one about who was supposed to serve and receive in a men’s doubles match when the score was 8-9 second server in the final game (at that time we had the old scoring system with 15 points and second server). My mind went totally blank, I couldn’t make sense of anything, and I didn’t understand the question, even though the assessor repeated it over and over again.

I was convinced that I had failed, stood up, shook hands with the assessor, thanked him politely and muttered something like “Sorry, but umpiring is not for me.” He insisted upon that I think it over one more time and then try to answer the question. But before asking me the question again he advised me to leave and go out of the hall, take a walk and then come back – which I did – and much to my own surprise I came up with the correct answer! Today I’m still grateful to this assessor  for being so patient and understanding. Otherwise my career of umpiring would have come to an end before it had even started. His attitude toward me is something I nowadays keep in mind when I‘m assessing nervous candidates myself.

After obtaining my local grade, everything went very quickly. I did a lot of umpiring, watched and observed other, more experienced umpires, studied the rules over and over again and was very unsatisfied with myself each time I noticed (or someone else did!) that my terminology wasn’t exactly as written in the status book. I passed the regional grade without any difficulties a couple of months later and in September the same year I was invited to a course for umpires wishing to be upgraded to national level. The course and assessment was run by four impressive persons in France: Isabelle Jobard, Ernest Robinson, François Fourel and Evelyne Maton, all of them international umpires for many years.

I passed the exam, gained a lot of confidence from it and therefore began to tell myself that I may