Villagers Tip Brazil to Win

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By Chrispin Inambao RUNDU The quiet settlement at Omega III along the B8 some 347 km east of Rundu is famed for its breath-taking sunsets and its single, male soccer team. But the drab village found in an area teeming with elephant, buffalo, antelope, springhare, wild dogs, hyena and other wild animals, is prone to quick-spreading bushfires. Not a single soul at Omega III has a radio and much so a television set so that they could tune in and watch matches from the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Despite the global appeal of the 2006 World Cup with a worldwide cumulative television audience exceeding 30 billion viewers its residents will not be part of this fun. The reason why this isolated hunter/gatherer Khwe community, that measures time by looking skywards, is cut off from the global soccer spectacle is because their habitat does not have radio and television reception. Sandwiched between Katima Mulilo in the east and Rundu in the west, Omega III whose headman is the aging William Mahenge, is home to Centre Chiefs, a football team of mostly barefooted, skinny youngsters. When New Era visited the area last Saturday afternoon a practice match was in progress. There were no spectacular or fabulous goals. Any observant spectator would have noted these football players were content with the old-fashioned, kick-and-rush formula where there is no positional play and where player concentration is hugely dictated by the position of the ball on the soccer field during the period of play. Though its residents are among the millions missing out from the soccer spectacle where Africa is represented by debutants Angola, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo and old-timers Tunisia, the team captained by school dropout Knosty Mukwasha is not completely out of touch with this seismic event featuring mouth-watering fixtures. Its members who count among the millions of fans of the world’s greatest player Ronaldinho, whose genius on the pitch is simply magical, also think Brazil, the bookmakers’ pre-tournament favourites, will prevail. When asked about the World Cup, Knosty Mukwasha, 20, who was attired in dark shorts and a white striped T-shirt inscribed with the word ‘Tiger’, said, “We are aware of it but not so much because we do not have TV sets.” When New Era wanted to know who his favourite player on earth is, Franco Mukwaya, whose tattered, sweat-stained soccer boots were held together by strings on the verge of snapping, was quick to say “Ronaldhino”. “He is always dreaming about Ronaldhino,” interrupted Peter Mapulanga, while Boniface Ovans chipped in saying, “It’s the best team,” in reference to Brazil, a team boasting a galaxy of stars, namely, Adriano, Roque Junior, Lucio, Emerson, KakÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚Â, Ronaldo, Robinho, Ze Roberto, Cicinho and of course Dida the goalkeeper. Though members of this team live in a remote part of the world, say they came to know about Brazil and its conquests while attending school at Rundu and in Katima Mulilo and like the majority of us through television and through newspaper and magazine articles. Though their soccer heroes are multi-millionaires, Knosty Mukwasa and his team-mates wallow in poverty and their chapped lips, ashen skins, tattered clothing, skinny bodies, yellow teeth and unkempt hair magnify their plight. Though Ronaldinho and company are residents of palatial mansions with the best training facilities complete with video sessions, Mukwasa and his team-mates have to contend with thatched huts, and potable water is also out of the question. Their team has a single ball and an old plastic whistle. Soccer boots which are beyond their reach serve for two players who albeit have very old, torn sports shoes. One of the players even has a T-shirt inscribed “Juventus” but he does not know Juventus is a big-gun club in Europe fielding house-hold soccer names. Whenever their ball is deflated, this team often borrows a hand-pump from a nearby community-run conservancy. Life is a daily struggle with each day bringing its own set of challenges such as where and when to source the next meal mostly from the bush, where they dig for tubers, gather fruit and poach using poison-tipped arrows. Though this community previously preferred a nomadic lifestyle, some of them have evolved into small-crop farmers planting small hectares of corn and millet. Last year, several members of this community received donkeys in a government-initiated scheme and they are now able to harness these beasts of burden for ploughing. The only form of entertainment available at Omega III is the occasional dance when it inhabitants gather in an open area and engage in an ancient, trance-like, dance while clapping their hands and pounding African drums. As hosts Germany locked horns with unfancied Costa Rica whom they subdued 4 – 2 in last Friday’s opening game at the Allianz Arena in Munich, this community went about its business with the majority unaware of the tournament of this magnitude. While tens of thousands of Namibians are watching live via ordinary television and through plasma screens the matches from the 30-day event, the Khwe are not so privileged and it will be a pity that their impoverished team will not be able to watch Carlos Alberto Parreira’s side brushing aside its opposi-tion in an interesting group with Asian, European and Australasian opposition. Like the bookmakers and even armchair self-anointed football “experts” the soccer team at Omega III does not fancy neighbouring Angola’s chances because they are debutants in a competition where conquest is for the experienced and where newcomers can only indulge in the occasional giant slaying and even advancing to the next round group but nothing beyond that.