WINDHOEK–NAMIBIA’S National Under-20 (U-20) football team has been replaced by Sudan at the 2016 Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) youth championship to be held in South Africa next month.
Cosafa this week announced that Sudan will replace Namibia after the Southern African country withdrew from the competition due to financial constraints.
Namibia’s government, battling to contain runaway expenditure, announced a blanket ban on participation at international sporting events for teams representing the country in October.
The move, according to director of sports Sivute Katamba, lost several sporting disciplines R38 million. This meant any international sports participation could no longer be funded.
Football has especially been the hardest hit. National football teams will not be able to participate at international tournaments, while the domestic football league, the Premier Soccer League, has been on hold indefinitely since September last year after failing to find a sponsor.
The Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service was originally allocated R491 million and had to return R49 million to Treasury as part of the cuts. It appears as though the bulk of that came off the sports directorate.
Lack of finances also means Namibia will only be sending a skeleton team to participate in the 2016 African Union Sport Council Region Five Under-20 games, formally known as Zone 5 games, to take place in Angola next month.
About 146 athletes were originally supposed to represent the country but the number has since shrunk, as authorities decided to trim the team. The Southern Times has learnt that the female basketball team as well as all football teams scheduled to take part in the games have been withdrawn, while other sport codes have been asked to take a minimal number of athletes.
The Southern Times has also learned that the directorate of sports has contemplated cancelling the country’s participation but opted to send a small team to avoid a hefty fine, which comes with withdrawing from the games at the last minute.
The Cosafa youth championship will be staged in Moruleng of the North West province from December 7 to 16.
“The North Africans will give the competition even more of a continental feel,” Cosafa said, adding that the Democratic Republic of Congo are also to compete in South Africa as representatives of Central Africa, providing another fascinating contrast in styles for fans to enjoy.
Sudan will take Namibia’s place in Group C at the championship, where they will meet Angola in their opening match on December 8, before clashing with Mauritius (December 10) and Seychelles (December 12).
Speaking to Nampa recently, Namibia Football Association (NFA) Secretary-General, Barry Rukoro, said the association’s only choice was to withdraw the team from the competition since they did not have the funds to prepare for the regional event.
Timothy Shongwe, the chairperson of the Cosafa competition’s committee, said they were disappointed that Namibia would not be competing at the 2016 Cosafa U-20 Championship, although they understood the country’s reasons for withdrawing. – Additional reporting by Nampa