The realisation that the national soccer team’s technical department does not have a goalkeeper’s coach but two full-time assistant coaches has irked former Blue Waters and Brave Warriors goal minder, Immanuel ‘Sparks’ Gottlieb.
Gotlieb, the first national team goalkeeper in independent Namibia, walked into the New Era offices and explained his cause. As goalkeeper who served the country between 1986 and 1996, the 42-year-old coach said the Namibia Football Association (NFA) is missing the point by a considerable margin by not employing a full-time goalkeeper’s coach.
“I first realised that Ronnie (Kanalelo) was not the goalkeeper’s coach when I went to the training ground before the DRC match. The goalkeepers were just strolling around until Ben Bamfuchile came to take them through their paces.
“I then approached the coach and offered my assistance without pay, since I could see that Ronnie was busy with other players. Unfortunately, Bamfuchile could not do anything at that time as there was need to consult the NFA and when I read in one local newspaper that Mr Rukoro had confirmed that there was no goalkeeper’s coach, I felt bad because all the goalkeepers in the national team came through my hands, ” he narrated.
Known as ‘Sparks’ during his heydays, Gottlieb has nurtured Ronny Kanalelo and is also credited with orchestrating the rise of current national team goalkeeper Abisai Shiningayamwe whom he brought from Walvis Bay to Civics at a time when he was the league winners’ goalkeeper’s coach.
“A highest structure such as the national team needs a full-time goalkeeper’s trainer. All along people thought it was Ronny, but since we have just been informed that Ronny is one of the assistant coaches, the team will be complete with a goalkeeper’s coach.”
Asked if he had an interest in the job, Sparks was poignant: “I have been a goalkeeper’s coach with Civics, Tigers, Eleven Arrows, Blue Waters and Black Leopards in the South African league. If clubs can have goalkeeper coaches as full-time technical department members, why not have it at national level?
Does it not pain a mentor to realise that his goalkeeper spends three weeks with a national team and comes back the same, or even with much less skill?”
Sparks brought current national team understudies, Athiel Mbaha and Ephraim Tjihonge, to South African side Black Leopards last year. He had trained them during his term with Namibian clubs.
“Mbaha became hot-headed at Leopards and we clashed on one incident which led to me being fired. He often had complained that I was looking after him like my own son. They wanted him at Leopards very much and he was a hero.
“I returned to Namibia last year when I was fired and within three months, he also left the club. I have forgiven him for the incident and I happen to know why he is yet to get a club,” said the former goal minder.
NFA Technical Director, Seth Boois, yesterday said he knew of Sparks’ offer but he does not handle such matters, referring this reporter to national team coach Ben Bamfuchile, who could not comment as he was still on sick leave.
Sparks currently runs a Goalkeeping Academy in Windhoek and Walvis Bay, with goalkeeping clinics scheduled for this Saturday at the TransNamib field.
It is the first time a goalkeeper’s academy is being set up in the country and the 1989 league winner with Arrows has welcomed goalkeepers from all ages and any league in the country.
He has won the league as a player with Blue Waters in 1996 and 2000 and as a goalkeeper’s coach with Civics in 2006, besides being league runners-up in 2003 with Blue Waters as a goalkeeper’s coach.
With acting NFA Secretary General, Barry Rukoro, still to arrive from the Danone Cup in France, the NFA president appreciated the willingness and commitment of seasoned players such as Sparks.
“It is a good point that Sparks is raising, but we should also know that due to financial constraints, some of our positions in the national team cannot be filled at this precise moment.
The Brave Warriors need a kit manager, a fitness trainer and the ability to send an advance team when playing away, but we have learnt to live with what we have,” said Muinjo.
According to the NFA czar, although it is ideally an excellent thing to have a goalkeeper’s coach, the presence of Kanalelo in the technical department had lessened the burden.
“These are the ideas we welcome into the national team. The truth of the matter is that we need more manpower in the national team and our former players should not shy away from advising us,” he said.