Comment: Is Namibian football really worth selling?

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By Otniel Hembapu

From crumbling stadiums, that are often ignored, to declining interest in Namibia’s own teams in favour of resplendent European sides, there is a great deal of work to do in order to restore the deteriorating image of Namibian football, especially the country’s flagship football league. New Era Sport looks at some issues.

Just last year when the chairperson of the MTC Namibia Premier League (NPL), Johnny Johnson Doeseb, officially launched the 2014/15 season live on the national broadcaster, NBC, he promised the entire nation that he would take drastic measures to revolutionise the way the NPL conducted its business in an attempt to bring a new lease of life to domestic football.

On that occasion, when Tim Ekandjo of MTC – the league’s sole sponsor – appealed to the league administrators to look at various ways that will help draw more supporters to stadiums. Doeseb then said the league was looking at new ways in which it can address the attendance issue and one of them was to introduce 16 teams that would hopefully bring more competitiveness to the league while the other was working closely with the media.

He also promised to negotiate with NBC and other foreign broadcasters in order to screen matches live or hopefully sell our product, among other promises.

But judging from last week’s events, one wonders if league administrators are really serious about marketing or taking Namibian football to greater heights in partnership with the local media, which in my opinion is the only efficient and free platform for the league to market or promote its product.

Just last week Monday, league administrators released match fixtures for the weekend games and then again retracted the fixtures on the Wednesday of the same week after calling off all matches slatted for the Independence Stadium.

Mysteriously, while journalists were busy on Thursday compiling articles about the weekend round of matches, league administrators unceremoniously decided to call off almost all the weekend fixtures via a badly-written press release that was only made available to the media on Friday morning when all newspapers were already on the streets and store shelves.

The situation, as can be expected, caused a lot of confusion and commotion among local football lovers, with a fraction still convinced that all games were going to take place as earlier planned, while others, with access to internet, were well informed about the new developments.

With such poor planning and failure to get the basics right from the side of the country’s flagship league, how do you then expect the media to play a role in helping to promote or market a product that is already on its knees.

With journalists already being exposed to harsh conditions such as the constant lack of team lists at matches, to the poor brand of football being displayed in the pitch which one can easily mistake for that of a high school tournament, it has become clear that the league hierarchy has no single clue as to how the media operates and it further undermines respect between the two parties.

While football in the rest of the world has advanced to new heights, with marketing and television fueling the rise of the game, Namibian football remains stuck in a time warp and it’s all because of poor planning by administrators and their failure to recognize how they can effectively use the media for their own advancement.

A local football lover will prefer to wear a Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool shirt and debate the English league fortunes rather than our own local teams, the drift in passion is understandable and you cannot blame the locals because we do not yet have a product to sell to our people.

Until the NPL changes its ways, Namibia has no product to sell to Africa or the world, it’s simple as that!

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