By Carlos Kambaekwa
MTC Namibia Premiership perennial under-achievers Tigers Football Club has vowed to put title-chasing Sport Klub Windhoek (SKW) to the sword when the two giants clash in a Premier league match at the Khomasdal Stadium tonight (19h00).
Mathematically, the Donkerhoek outfit might be out of contention for the coveted league title of the current season, but Willem Kapukare’s charges certainly possess the ability to have a bigger say in who wins the league title when the curtain finally comes down on what could be easily described as the most closely-contested race for the country’s most sought-after silverware.
Eighth placed Tigers are trailing 2nd placed SKW by 8 points but the Shandumbala Boys can take solace from the fact that they boast the second highest scoring record in the Namibia Premiership with 20 goals – seven behind log leaders Ramblers who have rattled the opposition’s net on 27 occasions.
However, Tigers’ free-scoring strikers could hit a concrete wall against the defensive minded Germans who have conceded the least number of goals – 8 to be precise, alongside Orlando Pirates in the domestic league going into round fourteen.
Whilst the strike force has been rattling the opposition’s net at will, Tigers’ rearguard has been quite generous too with a patchy record of having conceded a worrisome 19 goals in 19 hours and 30 minutes of playing time.
Such is the intensity of the league campaign this season that victory for Tigers will see them leapfrog three places above their current 8th place into joint 4th place alongside Black Africa on 21 points – albeit for 48 hours – before the other title contenders resume their assault on the league title over the coming weekend.
After sharing the spoils in the first round (2 – 2), Tigers are determined to narrow the gap on the early pace-setters and the tactically-aware Kapukare is monitoring the situation very closely.
“We are playing a team that has been in the top bracket since the beginning of the league campaign and that’s an indication that they must be doing something right and we cannot afford to underestimate SKW at this point in time – yet the match is winnable if we are able to turn half of the countless goal-scoring chances we create into goals.”
The rueful coach believes his team could have collected maximum points from their league match against Black Africa last Friday, had lady luck not turned her cheek on them, and also blasted his defence for its casual approach and continual lack of concentration.
Tigers will be minus their top goal scorer Wesley Kinda, who is a definite non starter through injury, while serious doubts are hovering over the availability of long serving pint-sized striker Stanley Kwambi and central defender Puder Mwandinahange.
Both players are on the treatment table, nursing an assortment of injuries suffered in the match against Black Africa, and a clearly worried Kapukare is crossing his fingers that the pair would be declared fit for selection as the youthful mentor seeks to inflict a second league defeat on the unfashionable but highly disciplined German outfit.
The Germans were made to sweat all the way during their hard fought 2-Nil win over lowly placed Fedics United last weekend, but despite having collected the much needed three points at stake, coach Richard Starke expressed disappointment with the unprofessional manner in which his players conducted themselves on the pitch.
“The boys did not play to instructions in that match and made things extremely difficult for themselves and the sooner we correct that the better, because we cannot afford to be complacent at this crucial stage of our league campaign.”
The Germans know very well that a slip-up will widen the gap between them and log leaders Ramblers, while victory would propel them to the summit of the MTC Namibia Premiership log standings, at least for 48 hours, until Ramblers take on African Stars in what many football pundits predict to be a potential league decider.
“Tigers have always been tricky customers to deal with because they don’t really play to a fixed system – they are a very physical side and can become problematic for our title aspirations if not carefully taken care of.”
The soft spoken mentor says they have surpassed their own expectations that included finishing amongst the top three at the end of the first round, but with the elusive league title now well within touching distance, Starke can’t resist the challenge.
“Our ultimate destination is in our own hands and we have to take it game by game and make 100 percent sure we don’t drop points unnecessarily at this crucial stage of the campaign.”
The Germans are at full strength with no significant injuries and the Tigers’ rearguard will be well advised not to allow the opposition’s wingers to whip in their customary high balls into the danger zone, targeting their robust and towering inspirational captain Arend von Stryk, who has proven to be a thorn in the flesh of many defenders with his aerial power.