With the Nigeria Under-17 women’s football team headed to Windhoek this week ahead of their 2016 FIFA Under-17 Women World Cup first round 2nd leg match against Namibia’s Baby Gladiators, coach Mervin Mbakera believes the Gladiators can improve and hold their own against the much-feared visitors.
The Gladiators will confront the visiting Nigerians at Sam Nujoma Stadium at 16h00 on Friday, January 22, in a crucial tie that will decide who progresses to the final round against either Zambia or South Africa for a place at the 2016 FIFA Under-17 Women World Cup in Jordan.
Only three countries will represent Africa at the championships.
Speaking after witnessing his side lose 6-0 to the Brave Gladiators in a practice match at Sam Nujoma Stadium on Saturday afternoon, coach Mervin Mbakera says the Baby Gladiators have the character and will to fight for each other and for Namibia.
“When we played in Nigeria it was not an easy game, but after the half-time talk, our girls came back strongly and displayed great character and did their best, until midway through the second half when our defender controlled the ball, but was overpowered by the Nigeria captain who scored the fourth goal for us to lose 4-0. But in the end it was promising for us that we can hold our own against a team of Nigeria’s calibre”, Mbakera notes.
He reiterates that it is a privilege for his girls to play against Nigeria and going forward the experience will be invaluable. “It is a privilege to play the Nigerians. They can overpower us because of their physical strengths that give them the advantage, but we can get there. Our team has character and that is very important”, Mbakera said.
In the practice match on Saturday Stella Williams opened the scoring two minutes into the game with a close header from a corner kick, but the juniors regrouped and displayed great tactical play against a clearly unfit Gladiators. Half-time score: 1-0.
Both sides made a few changes to the playing personnel, but the Baby Gladiators defended well against the likes of Zenatha Coleman, Thomalina Adams and company, with the combative Asteria Angula, captain Sharon Pieters, the directive Ignacia Haoses and the speedy Beverly Uueziua leading the Baby Gladiators.
The Baby Gladiators eventually crumbled under constant pressure from the seniors, as they conceded four goals in 13 minutes. Katuta scored on 65 minutes, followed by Anna Shikusho on 71 and Stacey Naris on 75 minutes, with Coleman scoring on 77 minutes to make it 5-0.
The Gladiators were not finished, as in added time after the 80 minutes played, newcomer Eva Ulumbu also got in on the act to make it 6-0 at the final whistle. All in all Yvonne Kooper, Julia Rutjindo and Kylie Van Wyk, also had a good run on the day and so did Mbitjita Mungunda for the Baby Gladiators.