By Carlos Kambaekwa
A resurgent Tigers Football Club has vowed to add Ramblers to their latest list of casualties when the two teams meet in what promises to be a real humdinger in the MTC Namibia Premiership at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Katutura tonight at 19h00.
Such is the intensity of the competition this season that victory for 7th placed Tigers will leapfrog them into first position on the Namibia Premiership log standings – one point ahead of the chasing pack.
Ramblers are perched second on the log with 10 points, the same number as leaders Eleven Arrows, but the coastal side’s superior goal average placed them ahead of closest challengers and joint leaders Black Africa, Civics and Sport Klub Windhoek, who are all sitting on 10 points after completion of round six.
Tigers are fresh from back-to-back wins over African Stars and Civics respectively in their last two league outings, and if their performance against Civics is anything to go by, Ramblers could be in for a rude awakening.
The Donkerhoek lads came back from the jaws of death and staged a dramatic comeback that saw them clinching a well-deserved 3-2 victory over the star-studded Civilians after trailing by two goals with 20 minutes left on the clock.
In their last meeting, Ramblers demolished the out-of-sorts Tigers outfit by 4 goals without a reply in their opening match of the just ended First National Bank of Namibia’s Knockout Cup competition at Windhoek’s Independence Stadium less than two months ago.
Ironically, Ramblers went on to win the tournament after seeing off the likes of Orlando Pirates, SKW, and Black Africa on their way to their biggest ever payday in domestic football. The Tunchel Street Boys walked away with a handsome first prize of N170 000.
Ramblers’ coach Dove Fransman said they have put last weekend’s victory over Black Africa in the FNB Cup behind them and would now channel all their energy towards their primary target – winning the elusive league title.
“We need to guard against complacency and utilize the dozens of chances we create during matches in order to finish off our opponents when we have them against the wall,” said the soft-spoken former Young Ones and Ramblers’ versatile footballer.
Fransman used to be a solid centre back in his heyday and also proved to be amongst the better shot stoppers around whenever called upon to man the sticks.
Ramblers got their 2007/2008 League campaign off to a flying start and collected maximum points from their first two league outings, but the goals have dried ever since and the Tunchel Street Boys could only muster a paltry 4 points from a possible 12 in their last four league matches – something which should be a cause of concern for the wealthy blue and white striped outfit.
“We have been dominating play and created countless goal-scoring opportunities in almost all our matches since the start of the current season and even managed to score quite a handful of goals, but lack of concentration at the back and to a certain extent bad luck cost us dearly in the long run.
“Nevertheless, we have been working very hard at training to patch up those shortcomings and are extremely confident the chaps will find their rhythm very soon – unfortunately it has to come at the expense of Tigers tonight,” boasted Tollie van Wyk.
Ramblers will be minus their Captain Fantastic Michael “Dolam Tower” Pienaar, who is serving a one-match suspension after the towering defender was given marching orders in his team’s last league match against Orlando Pirates where Rammies surrendered a two-goal lead to share the spoils with the coach-less Sea Robbers.
Despite their good showing of late, Tigers’ coach Willy Kapukare is adamant his team will be the underdogs in tonight’s clash.
“We are facing a team that is unbeaten in all competitions this season and with all due respect, very few teams in domestic football can match Ramblers pound for pound when it comes to quality, but we have been working on our own game plan and should give a good account of ourselves,” added the former national youth coach.
The Donkerhoek striking pair of Tangeni Shipahu and Tanzanian import Lubingiza Lubingiza are joined by goalkeeper Fox Nambundunga on the treatment table and are all doubtful starters for tonight’s penultimate clash.
What will make the tie more intriguing is the fact that former Tigers’ stalwarts Nelson ”Dicky” Akwenye, Jeremiah ”Bull Frog” Baisako, Manne Martins and Naka Sinmwinyo will be operating on the opposing side this time around.
The quartet escaped from Tigers’ cage at the beginning of the current season to seek greener pastures at the wealthy Pionierspark-based outfit.