A recent study conducted by New Era Sport has revealed the significant impact made by footballers from neighbouring countries, but none have made their presence felt more than the large contingent of Zimbabweans plying their trade in the country’s flagship league – the MTC Premiership.
The historic bilateral relationship between Namibia and sister country Zimbabwe has now trickled down to the sports fields, with footballers from that neck of the woods invading the MTC Premiership en masse.
They came in all sorts of packages, named Knowledge, Wonderful, Jealous, Liberty, At Last, Courage, Trust, Confidence – you name them. As it stands, the vast number of Zimbabweans registered in the semi-professional MTC Premiership is enough to make up two full teams with a total of 25 players registered with nine of the 16-team MTC Premiership.
Namibia’s oldest football club, Tigers, boasts the largest intake of Zimbabweans (5) followed by coastal outfit Eleven Arrows (4), Orlando Pirates (3), while reigning champions African Stars (3) have added newcomer Trust Mwkandawira to the pair of goofy-tooth skillful midfielder Milton Chapo and lethal net-buster Mugowe Godwin Jena. The latter has since been released and is now registered with Citizens.
Rundu based outfit United Stars (3) Citizens (3) Unam (2) Julihno Sporting (1) and relegated Rebels (3) complete the line up of the Zimbabwean legion.
Other Zimbabweans who left their mark in the domestic topflight league were the late burly centre forward, Wilbert Masembe (scorer of the first goal at the newly built Sam Nujoma stadium in Windhoek in 2004), Peter Mabandje, Samson Kawawa and the much-traveled former Zimbabwean international, Mtshumayeli Mayo.
Unlike in South Africa, where locals have taken their frustrations out on Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals under the guise of xenophobia, Namibians have embraced the presence of their brothers and sisters from across the Limpopo River.
Apart from the large contingent of Zimbabweans in the country’s topflight football league, Zimbabweans have brought a new dimension to the local game and contribute immensely in the area of capacity building.
A good chunk of them can be found behind news desks in various media houses, others are dominating figures in the coveted information technology (IT) market, offering much-needed expertise while vendors go about their daily business unhindered.
“Zimbabwean footballers are a good omen to the overall growth of Namibian football, as they provide valuable expertise, discipline, commitment and more importantly, a measure of professionalism,” said local football analyst Ercher Luanda.
“It’s always good to have athletes from neighbouring countries, as such practice can only augur well for our own progress, as long as they can add credence to our game,” commented another football official.
Zimbabweans, who have left an indelible mark in Namibian football, include Peter Ngwenya, Admire Djukamanya, Mutsumayeh Moyo and lately Protasho Kambwe, Lukson Kaisa, Knowledge Mutyoraringa and Thomas Muketiwa.