There is a new sheriff at the country’s most followed sporting discipline, football. He might be unknown to many but northern businessman Frans Mbidi is a man on a serious mission to take Namibian football to the next level. Mbidi became the seventh president of the Namibia Football Association (NFA) after replacing John Muinjo in November last year. He has been the chairperson of the vast Oshana Football Region and served on the NFA Exco for many years. New Era Sports Editor Carlos Kambaekwa caught up with the man occupying Namibia’s plump sports position, as he relates his envisaged journey in domestic football.
Carlos Kambaekwa (CK): Mr President, let me congratulate you on your selection as NFA President and welcome you to the football family with open arms. Thanks for taking time to give us an overview of the task lying ahead since you have taken over the reins as football’s commander-in-chief. You have been at the helm of Namibian football for almost six months now, tell us about your experiences and the challenges so far?
Frans Mbidi (FM): I must confess I’m amazed by the wonderful reception I have received from both the media and the general public, the football fans. I would also acknowledge the support I received from the highest authority in the country, that of President Dr Hage Geingob and most members of his Cabinet. Challenges are multiple but can be turned into favourable opportunities.
CK: It’s a well-documented fact that the game of football enjoys massive support among many Namibians with thousands following the game on television. In all honesty, it seems that the vast interest of the game is only confined to international football, what’s your take on that?
FM: Football is a global game and we can only emulate good strategies from successful football playing nations and use these experiences to our own advantage.
CK: It has been argued, and rightly so, that football is a much sought-after commodity but yet, overall Namibian football is struggling to attract decent sponsorships. What can you attribute these shortcomings to and what suggestions do you have in mind to remedy this scenario?
FM: The game of football is grossly neglected by football bosses domestically and we should find ways and means to rectify the situation sooner rather than later. The oversight role of the football leaders is to ensure proper structures in their leagues and clubs alike and to incorporate vigorous marketing strategies.
CK: Television coverage has been another stumbling block in terms of revenue with the national broadcaster not keen to purchase broadcasting rights, as is customary practice globally. As a result of this misunderstanding or rather deliberately tailored debate, domestic football is unable to realise its full potential through television revenue?
FM: The national broadcaster (NBC) should not be apportioned blame for our inability to put structures in place, which could attract interest from media houses and by so doing add value to our product. Once our product is valued all rights and benefits will be plentiful.
CK: The marketing aspect remains a serious bone of contention with dwelling crowds leading to empty stands. Such practice has the potential to unintentionally disarm players’ ability and commitment since athletes in any kind of sporting discipline are encouraged by the number of people cheering them on the field of play. What should be done to jack up the turnstiles?
FM: There are only two sides to a coin, either you are professional or not. There is no such thing as semi-professional. The onus is on club owners to drive the process of becoming professional while the NPL should introduce a reward programme in recognition of the clubs, which have successfully transformed into professional entities. The process should not take longer than one football season to be realised.
CK: The Chief Administrator of the NPL Tovey Hoebeb said it openly on national television recently that Namibian football is not yet professional – or even semi-professional. If this is true, how long will it take to make the league fully professional?
FM: The CAF Club Licensing regulations are now mandatory and ready for implementation in all football associations on the continent. We will soon advertise the position of a Club Licensing Officer at the NFA who will, inert alia, be responsible for checking compliance in respect of CAF policies on Club Licensing.
CK: There seem to be no set guidelines over the so-called club owners some of them fly-by night who just surface from nowhere with the ultimate aim to market their own hidden agenda only to develop itchy feet when the going gets tough are there any plans to regulate club ownership?
FM: I must hasten to draw your attention to the fact that all our leagues have no rules of their own. However, as a responsible association and leadership we have embarked upon a support programme to our members. This programme will lead to the finalisation of statutes for all our members including the NPL and should they be adopted by the members, rules and regulations will follow.
CK: There is a tendency among football administrators to change standard rules as it suits them or rather deliberately misinterpreting basic rules. A case in point are matches played over the remaining minutes notwithstanding the fact that the abandonment of these matches was the result of natural disasters such as rain and power outage and should be replayed in their entirety.
FM: It is the prerogative of the members to constitute their own rules and regulations. If the NPL membership is happy with any rule which provides for an abandoned match to be replayed for only the remaining time after that match was called off, then the onus is upon them to do so. It, therefore, should be part of the rules and regulations and not a boardroom decision.
CK: What is your overall vision for the national teams across all levels? Is there any mandate for coaches, a barometer or a blueprint and timeframe as to where we want be in the next five years?
FM: NFA structures in respect of national teams are functional and coaches have been proposed while some appointments have already been approved by the executive. We are continuing with the education programmes for coaches and by the end of next season, no coach will be allowed to sit on the bench of a club or team without a CAF A-Licence. In actual fact, my vision in respect of coaching is to have all coaches licensed by the end of the year 2016.