The year that was – some highs and lows

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Namibia’s internationally acclaimed bantamweight boxer Paulus ‘The Rock’ Ambunda was deservedly voted the most outstanding athlete in 2013.

WINDHOEK – As the year 2013 draws to a close, New Era Sport takes you the reader through the highs and lows of some of our sportsmen and sportswomen, locally and internationally, as we reflect on the overall achievement of our leading athletes and national teams.

Despite the many challenges facing Namibian sport, ranging from maladministration to financial constraints, sport continues to create positive social change and promote the visibility and stature of athletes. History has also proven that sport is the most essential tool to cut across gender, race and socio-economic lines, while sport can also bridge cultural gaps, resolve conflict and educate people in a way that few other activities can.

Logically, it is always better to start with the good rather than the bad, especially when the good eclipses the bad.

There is no better place to start than the inspiring achievements of Namibia’s Paralympics athlete Johannes Nambala, who made headlines worldwide by winning a gold medal at the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) World Championships in Lyon, France earlier this year that saw him crossing the line in a new championship record time of 49,07 seconds to clinch the Men’s T13 400m final.

Nambala’s winning time emulated the previous championship record time of 49,41, set by Russia’s Alexander Zverev in 2011. He also became Namibia’s first athlete to win a gold medal at the IPC World Championships and further cemented his name at the World Championships when he won a second medal, this time taking a silver medal in the Men’s T13 200m, setting a new African record time of 21,59 seconds.

The hard work of the Namibian Paralympics sports fraternity was again reflected in the inspiring performance of Johanna Benson, who scooped two bronze medals at the World Championships after taking third place in the Women’s T37 100m and 200m finals.

Namibian Paralympians have emerged head and shoulders above the rest which has seen the only sport code delivering some sterling performances internationally and has on every occasion brought back home fruitful results, despite all the odds stacked against these athletes.

Both Nambala and Benson went on to scoop top awards at this year’s prestigious MTC NSC Namibia Annual Sports Awards – claiming the Disabled Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year accolades. The Paralympics athletes’ splendid showing has inspired the nation and in the process, refocused our attention on disability sports and our own shortcomings and biases against people living with disabilities

In other notable achievements, it’s time for our sports fraternity to doff their hats to boxing promoter Nestor ‘Sunshine’ Tobias. Namibia has taken a leading role on the African continent in producing world-class boxers and future world champions.

In March this year, Namibia produced its only third professional boxer to claim a world title after Paulus ‘The Rock’ Ambunda trounced Thailand’s Pungluang Sor Singyu on points to win the elusive World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight world title on home soil.

Just recently, Tobias was on the verge of producing the country’s fourth world champion when Immanuel ‘The Prince’ Naidjala suffered a unanimous defeat at the hands of Japanese Tomoki Kameda, in Osaka, Japan. Meanwhile, Namibia’s hard-punching boxing ace Wilberforce Shihepo was denied a chance to take a shot at the WBO super middleweight world title following his controversial defeat against veteran German boxer Arthur Abrahams.

Nonetheless, with the likes of Paulus ‘The Hitman’ Moses, Paulus ‘The Rock’ Ambunda, Prince Naidjala, Wilberforce Shihepo, Tyson Uushona, Vikapita Meroro, Sacky ‘Izinyoka’ Shikukutu and Sakarias Lukas as well as several upcoming young boxers grazing the shores of local boxing, Namibia is definitely not far from producing more world champions.

Following years of financial constraints and self-inflicted disasters of internal infighting, the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) has finally moved up a gear in terms of proper administration and general development of the game of rugby in the country at all levels.

However, a lot still needs to be done notably in the areas of securing a headline sponsor for the Union but we are hopeful this problem would be solved very soon, given all the good governance we have witnessed since the much-welcomed arrival of NRU President Bradley Basson and CEO Sybrand de Beer.

Another unheralded hero of Namibian sports is cycling sensation, Costa Seibeb, who has been recording excellent times

on the international circuit.

Meanwhile, as crowds continue to throng high-profile football matches in the domestic MTC Premiership, credit must go to some of the leading clubs for producing top-notch football during the course of the current term. The Namibian Football Association (NFA) and coach Ricardo Mannetti also deserve a pat on the back for assembling a future Brave Warriors squad.

Many Namibians have had the chance of watching and witnessing firsthand as young talents such as Petrus Shitembi, Deon Hotto, Sadney Uri-Khob, Willy Stephanus, Henry Somseb, Neville Tjiueza, Edward Maova and Treasure Kauapirura, to mention but a few, demonstrated glimpses of future world-class footballers who have so far demonstrated some of the brightest moments the Namibian sports fraternity have witnessed in the year 2013.

The Namibian Under 20 football team the Baby Warriors’ good showing at the just concluded COSAFA Youth Cup in Lesotho certainly augurs well for the future of Namibian football.

The youngsters were bundled out of the youth tourney by eventual winners South Africa, but Namibians can take solace with the fact that the team emerged unscathed without a loss in their three matches which culminated in two draws and one win.

Reigning Namibian football giants Black Africa Football Club deserves special mention for claiming the coveted MTC Premiership title for an unprecedented third time in a row.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Namibia Boxing Federation (NBF)/Namibia Boxing and Wrestling Control Board (NABWCB), whose president Kelly Nghixulifwa and sidekicks have come under fire for allegations inculpating them of abuse of power and having overstayed their welcome in the structures of Namibian boxing. The Federation’s top brass also stand accused of having deceptively delayed its quadrennial Elective Congress.

The same also goes for Cricket Namibia, which has in recent times suffered huge body blows and subsequently come under a barrage of criticism from some quarters following serious allegations of racism and lack of transformation, which led to its main financial backers, MTC, abandoning ship after attempts to introduce racial quotas failed, not to mention Cricket Namibia bosses’ reluctance to implement proposed programmes meant to bolster the introduction of racial quotas.

Nevertheless, one cannot overlook the performance of the Namibian Junior Cricket team for qualifying for the IOC World Cup.

On a rather sad note, football has lost some of its icons past and present with the untimely passing of former Black Africa shot stopper Atab Wermann, former African Stars fullback Lemmy Goagoseb, former Namib Woestyn’s tough tackling defender Lalla Lombard, former Red Fire winger Bobby Kazondandona and who will forget the sudden departure of Civics’ likeable defender Bobby Kaapama. May their soul rest in eternal peace.

Despite all the seemingly unending off-the-field squabbles in local sport, it’s time for the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC) to jack up its act and start calling corrupt administrators to order as their quarrels have the potential to overshadow the good progress made on the field of play. We wish all our esteemed readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New 2014!

By Carlos Kambaekwa & Otniel Hembapu 

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