The true future of Namibian football going forward unfortunately, or fortunately, depends on the strength and willingness of the current political leadership to sincerely assist it to achieve its true economic and social potential.
Anything else to the contrary is at this point not true nor sustainable. To further support this assertion, Namibian football fortunately has a passionate football patron who is the current head of state of the country and with his sincere direct support and leadership in this regard he can going forward have tremendous influence on the fundamental stability, financial strength and general direction of the game. This support however also applies to the general state, development and direction of other sports codes in the country.
It is important to take note at this juncture that MTC is majority owned by the Namibian government and any direct political leadership directive or intervention from its main shareholder (and patron) could have the desired positive material effect towards the eventual restoration and progression of the game of football in the country. However, all that depends on the sincere willingness by someone to intervene to restore the relationship between MTC (and/or any other potential corporate parastatals/entities) and the entire football fraternity. Please further take note that this same directive to any other financially stable government or private business entity or ministry from the patron to assist to resolve football’s financial woes could have the same desired positive effect.
Going forward, Namibian football does indeed have internal problems and challenges which need to be urgently addressed and resolved but despite all that the country still managed to over the years produce both positive and negative results for the nation. The country has over the years been able to participate in most African and World Cup annual qualifying games. It won the COSAFA Cup both at the senior and junior levels in South Africa, held for many years regular domestic football leagues thanks to MTC and others, held corporate competitive and developmental football cup tournaments, has a continuous youth developmental program, has maintained an excellent relationship with FIFA but has now unfortunately run out of financial steam which can be attributed to a number of debatable reasons.
Despite the abovementioned major football achievements and setbacks as a nation, the general problems with Namibian football have been known and well documented for a very long time to such an extent that people should not really be surprised about the current situation. It should however be very clear from the beginning that getting involved in Namibian football, one should be very prepared to be in for the long run otherwise false expectations and hope will be created.
In this regard, I have identified two main factors which I need to highlight at this juncture.
The real main factor that actually negatively busted the Namibian football bubble was the unfortunate ill-advised, socially ill-considered and ill-timed cancellation of MTC’s annual lucrative sponsorship to the Namibia Premier League (NPL) for the 2016/17 football season. This unprofessional and unexpected blunder in an active football league season is a significant contributor to the current dismal state the Namibian football currently finds itself in. The NPL management did absolutely nothing wrong to ask for more additional funds from its main sponsor and as based on its general demands to the league it should be easily able to afford the extra N$9 million if it really wants to.
A nation’s premier football league is an expensive sport platform and any further intended drive to encourage the achievement of professionalism and the associated international standards will require one to be prepared to foot the bill. This should never have been a money issue as a precedent and expectation was already set in the mind and eyes of the public and all relevant stakeholders that MTC will continue to fund the premier league and its associated costs.
In that regard, MTC really messed up big time and honestly disrupted the lives and expectations of many players and local football fans that it should be singly held accountable for the mess that we currently find ourselves in.
Getting involved in the game of football especially from a Namibian perspective requires an entity to be very bold and cognizant of the socio-economic environment (and its associated challenges) as well as that it will take considerable energy, time and resources to get the game of Namibian football right-sized to the intended desired level, and to simply just walk away from such an undertaking is truly an insult to the entire football loving community.
MTC initially went into football to own football to crowd out direct potential competitors such as TNT Mobile and should therefore man up to that intended social investment obligation.
The second main factor that is very important is that the direct stakeholders (owners) of the Namibian football are themselves very powerless and directionless or not content to effect any meaningful leadership changes at the highest level of the football organizations and this scenario as it stands is not healthy nor conducive for the future of football in the country. If the problem is really a leadership and management issue, then the relevant direct stakeholders should commence with the process to institute a vote of no confidence and install a competent team that they really think will effect the right changes for the benefit of the game. The absence of that gives a very clear indication that the current leadership at all levels is intact and hence should be allowed to do their jobs.
In conclusion, the future of Namibian football truly really lies in the hands of the owners and how they effectively communicate with their patron to sincerely assist them to restore and stabilize the game of soccer in the country for the benefit of all concerned.
• Pendapala Hangala is a socio-economist as well as an entrepreneur and this article is written towards the aims and objectives of Namibia’s Vision 2030.