In Praise of Conradie and Troops

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Shooting From The Hip Carlos Kambaekwa I find it a bit odd that a virtually inactive sporting discipline going by the name of Netball still possesses the venom to navigate her way into the hearts of corporate heavyweights after attracting a huge sponsorship from Telecom Namibia earlier this week. There has been some kind of reluctance from most local corporate businesses to plough back into community projects, notably recreational activities, with all kinds of lame excuses being advanced. Rugby is one of the country’s most progressive sport disciplines, but this particular code has been cold-shouldered by some authorities for its perceived past misdemeanours. Following the National Rugby Fifteen’s qualification for the World Cup finals in France next year – every Dick, even Tom, and never mind Harry – suddenly jumped on the bandwagon to embrace Kees Lensing and his lads for a job well done upon the team’s arrival at the Hosea Kutako International Airport earlier this week. The Biltong Boere’s qualification was certainly not a bed of roses as the team went through a thorny path, with their campaign at times hanging in the balance with all sorts of obstacles facing the cash-stripped Rugby Union. Namibia got its campaign off to a flying start after comfortably seeing off a hapless Kenyan side with a cricket score line in their opening Group-A match in front of a sparsel crowd at the Hage Geingob stadium in Windhoek earlier this year. However, back-to-back defeats away to Tunisia and Kenya almost derailed Namibia’s aspirations for a third successive appearance at the prestigious event, but the team redeemed itself and shook off some tough challenges from Tunisia in the return leg to set up a thrilling tie with Group-B winners Morocco in their two-legged encounter. After getting the better of the Moroccans in the first leg – the Namibians moved up an extra gear in the final leg and saw off the hosts in empathic fashion, a victory that came at a price as clearly demonstrated by the players’ physical appearance upon their arrival. A good chunk of the touring entourage returned with bruised faces – courtesy of some strange hospitality accorded them by their hosts who opted to treat their guests to some sort of face-lifting, obviously free of charge – excuse the pun!! Morocco could still slip through the back door and join Namibia and South Africa as Africa’s representatives at next year’s World Cup finals should they beat Europe’s group losers, which could be either Georgia or Portugal in the play-off between Africa and Europe’s second best-placed nation in the qualifiers. I would like to doff my somewhat ageing korrie to the uncompromising Dirk Conradie and his troops for their hard-core perseverance in taking the oval ball game to the next level and in the process grounding the Doubting Thomases. Some short-sighted rugby followers even went as far as suggesting that Namibia’s foreign legion should be totally discarded for national selection because of their sporadic failure to report for national duty through club commitments. Sport fans should understand that rugby players and many other athletes are making huge sacrifices in availing themselves for national duty because these athletes have signed lucrative contracts with their respective professional clubs and unions alike. Many run the risk of being dropped from the starting lineups and in the process also lose out big time on win bonuses and many other perks that come along in the modern game. Let us hope Rugby will now be accorded the long overdue respect it deserves among the country’s elite sporting disciplines, but as the witty goes, charity begins at the Pozzie and in this regard, the buck stops with the National Sports Commission who unexplainably placed Rugby in the B-Category, while Laaities are enjoying a slice of the big cake in the A-Category. For the sake of progress, I sincerely hope some of the usually Johnny-Come-Lately corporate businesse get on board and pump some moola into the empty coffers of the National Rugby Union so that the team can be well prepared when the finals get underway in France next year. While qualification for the World’s second biggest showpiece is an achievement on its own, the real test is yet to start when Namibia finally rubs shoulders with global rugby heavyweights in France, and for us to avoid a repeat of the mauling suffered at the hands of an under-strength Australian team at the last finals – preparation should start in earnest right now and this can only be realized through sound financial backing. Rugby has for far too long been tasting the sweet syrup of success on the pitch but with very little of it – if any – to boast about. In the meantime, I just can’t digest the logic of taking this weekend’s opening matches in the lucrative FNB cup to Mariental – my dear learned colleagues, football was initially invented by the Englishmen as a winter sport, but this notion has somehow missed penetrating the minds of many football administrators on the African continent. Mariental is one of the hottest places in the summer to the extent that one could fry an egg on the bonnet of a car within seconds with temperatures sometimes rising up to 38ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚º Celsius. Football authorities should guard against player burn-out, and this situation is worsened by the current practice of scheduling two matches within a space of 24 hours – something which is in total contravention with the FIFA Needs Assessment and Long -Term Planning 2005-2008.