By Carlos Kambaekwa
African Stars supporters celebrated with gusto as the final whistle blew after their nail-biting win over division one campaigners Hotspurs in the quarterfinals of the MTC NFA Cup at Mariental, last weekend.
However, this was certainly not a day to remember for the neutral football fan as Gilbert Rwasoka’s charges were dangerously lucky to escape another humiliation following their 6-0 hammering by Orlando Pirates in a league encounter, a week earlier.
The Reds are currently perched in 7th place on the MTC Namibia Premiership log standings and will be looking at activating their fading hopes of mounting a serious bid for the coveted league title when they host a wounded Tigers outfit at the SKW Stadium in Windhoek, tonight (19h00).
The Donkerhoek-based outfit was bundled out of the lucrative MTC NFA Cup by the rampant Oshikandela Ramblers side last weekend, and will be out to rectify matters at the expense of Stars with a mere point separating the two Katutura giants.
Victory for Tigers will move them into joint 5th place alongside KM Eleven Arrows on 23 points – 6 points adrift of log leaders Ramblers, while Stars could leapfrog both Arrows and Black Africa into joint 4th place with defending champions Civics if they manage to see off the dangerous but often inconsistent Ingweinyama.
On current form, Tigers should have little trouble recording a double over their nemesis after having collected maximum points from the Reds in the first round league match.
Tigers and Mighty Gunners are the only teams in the country’s elite league who have played the most draws – eight to be precise, while Tigers only found themselves on the ropes on three occasions against Stars’ five defeats.
Stars will be without the services of influential goalkeeper Maxmilian Mbaeva and midfielder Edison “Masinga” Muheua who are both on national duty with the National Under 20 team, while doubts are hovering over the availability of defender Dennis Ngueza and winger Heinrich “Gazza” Kazeurua.
The pair suffered injuries in Stars’ hollow win over Hotspurs at Mariental last weekend and face a late fitness test, but Rwasoka is not too concerned about the setback.
“Surely, we are expecting a very tough match tonight – I watched Tigers against Ramblers last weekend, and I must confess they are a very strong side and cannot be taken lightly but we need the maximum points at stake to stay in contention for the coveted league title, because if we fail to win tonight, we might just as well kiss our chances of winning the league goodbye,” charged the soft-spoken Zimbabwean mentor.
With 9 points separating Tigers from early pace-setters Ramblers and with six rounds of matches to go before the curtain comes down on what can be easily described as the most closely contested race for the league title in many years – it would take an extraordinary set of results for Tigers to mount a serious challenge for the title.
“With the type of players at my disposal I’m not really looking at winning the league, we just want to build a good team for next season because our defenders are not exactly disciplined and tend to give away soft goals at crucial times,” said a clearly disappointed Tigers coach Willem Kapukare.
“You might have noticed that we played a very good match against Ramblers last weekend and I’m very pleased with the performance of the team – it’s just that sometimes my defenders are making schoolboy errors and have developed a tendency of venturing forward when the strikers are not scoring and as a result we always get caught on the counter attack.”
Kapukare is holding his breath ahead of tonight’s clash as he awaits news from the team’s medical department on the fitness level of his entire strike force after the misfiring goal-poachers picked up an assortment of injuries against Ramblers last weekend.