Title Race Hots Up

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By Carlos Kambaekwa

WINDHOEK

Regardless of what happens in the MTC Namibia Premiership this weekend – log leaders Ramblers will still remain on the summit as the chase for the coveted title builds up, with nine rounds of matches left before the curtain finally comes down on what many football pundits predict to be the most closely contested race ever.

The Tunchel Street Boys visit their hoodoo team African Stars at the Khomasdal Stadium in Windhoek tonight (19h00).

The Reds are lying in unfamiliar 8th position – 10 points adrift of Ramblers but such is the intensity of the league campaign this season that victory for the “Samba Boys” would activate their fading title aspirations, considering their outstanding first round match against Black Africa.

Ramblers will be minus top goal scorer Pineas Jacobs who starts his one match suspension after the talismanic goal poacher saw red in his team’s runaway win over relegation threatened APS Blue Waters last weekend.

However, Ramblers coach Tollie van Wyk is not fazed about the unavailability of his most valued player.

“You must have noticed that we have been playing without him (Jacobs) for sometime when he was out injured and the team kept winning – so I’m not really having any sleepless nights over that, because we have a capable replacement in Nelson ‘Dicky’ Akwenye.”

Most encounters between the two teams in the past always ended in draws with Ramblers winning the odd game, but van Wyk says he does not believe in history and his charges are determined to shake off their jinx against Gilbert Rwasoka’s young brigade.

“We might not boast a decent record against Stars but they have also not been quite impressive in most of our encounters against us. Tonight’s game will be a total different kettle of fish since our approach is to take it game by game, and the players are hungry to win the elusive league title which we last won in 1992.”

The tough-tackling former Brave Warriors captain could not resist a parting shot at some match officials, whom he accused of lacking consistency. He pleaded with the men in black to protect players and exercise strict punishment of habitual offenders, especially tackles from behind that has the potential of ending players’ playing careers.

To compound matters, Stars will be without the services of upcoming reliable lanky goalkeeper Maxmillian Mbaeva and free-scoring midfielder Edison “Masinga” Muheua.

The pair has been declared ineligible for domestic action as they are currently in camp with the National Under-20 team, preparing for their first leg in the 16th edition of the African Youth Championship qualifiers against Botswana on the 19th of this month in Windhoek.

Despite trailing the log leaders by an insurmountable margin of 10 points – the Reds’ Zimbabwean mentor Gilbert Rwasoka is still harbouring ambitions of winning the coveted league title.

“This is our biggest test of character because we know very well that we are playing a team that is on top of their game with lots of quality in their playing personnel – and though we might not be able to match them pound for pound in most departments, I strongly believe we are capable of causing an upset, mark my words.

“Our approach is simple – and that’s to let the boys play collectively and make up for what they lack in skill with teamwork.”

In other action, defending champions Civics will have a mammoth task when they travel up north for their encounter with lowly placed Oshakati City at the town’s Independence Stadium tomorrow (15h00).

The Civilians have been climbing up the log ladder steadily of late and have proven to be good travellers after they came from behind in their hard fought 2 -1 defeat of Eleven Arrows at Wavis Bay last weekend.

The northern giants are languishing dangerously in the bottom half of the MTC Namibia Premiership log standings – three points above the danger zone and will bank on home ground advantage to secure their survival in top flight football come next season.

Basement residents Fedics United welcome third placed Orlando Pirates at the J Stephanus Stadium in Keetmanshoop tomorrow (15h00).

League rookies Mighty Gunners will be looking at maximizing home ground advantage to claim the scalps of Eleven Arrows in a desperate effort to keep fellow relegation candidates APS Blue Waters and Fedics United at arm’s length.

Dawid Snewe’s men in uniform play hosts to the inconsistent coastal outfit at the Mokati Stadium in Otjiwarongo tomorrow (15h00) and should have little trouble collecting the much needed maximum points at stake at the expense of the Maroon and Gold outfit.

Struggling coastal outfit APS Blue Waters have a date with title-chasing Black Africa at the Kuisebmond Stadium in Walvis Bay, to conclude the weekend’s activities tomorrow (15h00).

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