Nam football in need of a lifeline

By Adolf Kaure

NAMIBIAN FOOTBALL has reached a stage where it is hanging on for dear life. The confusion which surrounds the sport has become comical.

After independence, the Brave Warriors built a fortress at the national sport shrine – the Independence Stadium – by conquering many African giants, including South Africa.

The national team also earned some respect by troubling African giants Ivory Coast and Angola at the 1998 African Cup of Nations. The respect earned birthed household names like Congo Hindjou, Lolo Goraseb and Ronnie Kanalelo.

Many of the Brave Warriors squad members were plying their trade abroad. The likes of Robert Nauseb and Mohammed Ouseb were first choice selections at South African top outfit Kaizer Chiefs, while Ricardo Mannetti never missed a match for Cape Town side, Santos.

Eliphas Shivute went as far as Scotland playing for Motherwell FC before he moved to the Chinene outfit Dalian Wanda FC in the Jia-A League at a record ₤350.000 (about R5.7 million). Collin Benjamin was flying the Namibian flag in the UEFA Champions League with his former German club, FC Hamburg.

Fast-forward a few decades later and Namibian football is on life support battling for survival. The ironic thing about the depressing state of Namibian football is it comes after Namibia enjoyed its finest hour in its short history.

This is a period which had Namibian supporters almost delusional after the famous 2-0 victory in the 2015 COSAFA Castle Cup over Mozambique in South Africa which raised new heroes as well as new expectations.

Prior to that, the country hosted the Women’s African Cup of Nations Championships which was well attended and saw Tura Magic star Zenatha Coleman nominated as the African woman player of the year for 2014. Coleman now plays for Luthianian club, Gintra Universitetas.

An ironic turn of events has since transpired after this. A full strength Brave Warriors team failed to make an impression at the 2016 COSAFA Cup, which they hosted even though they were playing against teams that brought their second and third teams.

Namibia was toothless in both the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers as well as the 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Things took a turn for the worse last year after mobile operator, MTC, withdrew its sponsorship of the local premier league. Ever since, Namibian football has gone into hibernation. Even the government through the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service refused to assist.

MTC withdrew its annual R15 million sponsorship after the Namibia Premier League failed to secure an additional R9 million, to make up the total annual budget of R24 million.

As a result, hundreds of players and other officials who had been making a living from football were left to fend for themselves, after the soccer season failed to resume, with the status quo expected to continue during the 2017 football season.

Club football has only seen three competitions this season. The first is the Dr Hage Geingob Cup, which saw African Champions’ Mamelodi Sundown’s defeating Namibian league champions, Tigers.

Standard Bank sponsored the Super Cup, which African Stars won comprehensively with a 3-0 win over Tigers. Diamond prospecting and miner, DebMarine Namibia, last year committed R14.1 million to sponsor the country’s biggest football competition, the Namibia Football Association Cup for the next three years.

Namibia Premier League (NPL) has already declared that they don’t have money to commence with the premier league for this season. This made it even harder for Brave Warriors coach Ricardo Mannetti.

Mannetti has to do the impossible to bring his local based players to a certain fitness level when Namibia hosts Zimbabwe in the CHAN Qualifiers.

The Brave Warriors will host Zimbabwe in the second round of qualifiers on the weekend of 15-16 July. The second leg is scheduled to be played between 21 and 23 July 2017 in Zimbabwe.

And sport is likely to take a back seat when Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein tables the 2017/18 national budget in the National Assembly.

With no prioritisation, the game is dying. Despite youngsters like Deon Hotto, Peter Shalulile and Wangu Gome having emerged as the future of the Brave Warriors, there is no visible and deliberate youth system which grooms youngsters from a tender age.

Brilliant African teams like Nigeria and Ivory Coast are successful due to their emphasis on developing young players.

It is more common to find youngsters catching up with the latest gadgets and social media conversations instead of kicking a ball on the street.

Namibian football has hit a new all-time low. The game needs salvation. Soccer in Namibia needs to be seriously revamped.

February 2017
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