By Carlos Kambaekwa
The first leg of the 6th edition in the Africa Cup for Women comes off this evening when the Namibian Brave Gladiators welcome Nigeria’s Super Falcons at the Khomasdal Stadium in Windhoek.
Continental powerhouse Nigeria arrived in the country on Tuesday to acclimatize ahead of their penultimate clash with the talented but relatively inexperienced Namibians who walloped Botswana 9-1 on aggregate in the competition’s preliminaries last year.
The hosts are fired up and with Okahandja Beauties’ midfielder Stella Williams in top form. She is by far the most polished women footballer in the country and the 28-year-old goal poacher has so far netted 16 goals in 17 appearances, which makes her the highest goal scorer in the history of Namibian football. Little wonder coach Jacky Shipanga was confident ahead of today’s clash.
“I’ve been studying their style of play during the World Cup finals last year and noticed that they like to attack from the wings in large numbers because they possess lots of pace upfront, but I’m sure we have what it takes to deal with any threat that they might pose,” said Shipanga.
Namibia has been boosted by the return of 2-goal heroine against Botswana in the preliminaries Salomi Iyambo who is likely to lead the firing line with hotshot striker Stella Williams reverting to the playmaker role in the middle of the park.
“We have to close them down quickly and try to catch them on the counter-attack and shoot from range because the visitors are loaded with plenty of experience and could become troublesome if not properly taken care of,” added Shipanga.
The Namibians boasts a youthful squad with the bulk of the team comprising of players under the age of 21.
Though Shipanga is upbeat about the prospect of beating the Super Falcons and taking a healthy lead into the second leg to be played in Abuja in a fortnight’s time, she acknowledged that the visitors could be tricky customers.
“Obviously, people should not expect Namibia to walk over our opponents because the Nigerians have been playing together for a longer period than our young team but we will by all means give them a good run for their money,” concluded Shipanga.
Should Namibia come out victorious against Nigeria in both legs, the Gladiators will then book themselves a place amongst the continent’s best 16 nations when the finals gets underway in Equatorial Guinea later this year.
Attempts to speak to the Nigerian technical team proved futile as local journalists were sent from pillar to post by the slippery and media-shy Nigerian officials.
The Gladiators wrapped up their preparation with a two-legged friendly match against Orlando Pirates’ Under-17 side.
The first leg ended in a 1-all stalemate on Sunday, but the girls were more determined and dispatched their male opponents with their tales firmly tucked between their legs by a solitary goal on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the head of Women’s football Jacky Gertze has attributed the sudden rise of Women’s football to the country’s football authority’s unwavering support in terms basic needs such as providing transport, accommodation, meals and accessibility to training facilities amongst others.
Women football has grown in leaps and bounds with proper league structures in place while trials are held regularly in the form of organized tournaments which pit regional winners against each other.