As the curtain to the year 2016 comes down, New Era Sport would like to take you our esteemed reader down memory lane as we reflect on the high and low moments in the local sport fraternity during the year under review.
As customary, especially when the good supersedes the bad, we will kick-start our review with the many achievements witnessed on the local sports scene this year, starting off with the country’s Paralympians who brought home an avalanche of medals from various continental and international competitions, including this year’s Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Again putting the country on the international map were Namibia’s Para-athletes, who defied all odds, such as a lack of adequate funding and substandard training facilities, to rake in a raft of medals from the Paralympic Games in Rio and also from the Nedbank National Championships for Physically Disabled held annually in South Africa.
But let’s start with the Paralympics, which is the biggest sports stage for athletes with disability, where Namibian athletes brought a record 5 medals from the games – an achievement that saw Namibia finishing 7th among all African countries on the gold medal table with one gold. The other medals were two silver and two bronze medals.
In Brazil, Namibia’s fast-as-lightning sprinter Ananias Shikongo was the man of the moment as the strongly built athlete stole and equally dominated international headlines when he scooped three medals at the games – a gold medal in the men’s T11 200m and two bronze in the T11 100m and 400m.
Also in the mix of things was sprinter Johannes Nambala, who alongside Shikongo kept the Namibian flag flying high during the duration of the games, as he went on to scoop two vital silver medals in the men’s T13 200m and 400m – in the process bringing Namibia’s medal tally at the games to a historic five medals.
Namibia has so far made four appearances at the Paralympic Games since her debut in 1992 and until this year’s games the country had never managed to bring home more than five medals. After joining other sister countries on the international Paralympics arena in 1992, Namibia only managed to win a first medal at the 2008 games held in Beijing, China, where Reginald Benade won a bronze medal in the men’s F35/36 discus throw.
But more success for the country would come at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, where a then unknown Johanna Benson shocked the world when she scooped Namibia’s first ever gold medal at the games when she won the women’s T37 200m and then went on to win a silver medal in the women’s T37 100m – helping the country bring home two medals from the London games. Having brought home five medals from Rio 2016, this year’s games remain the country’s best in terms of medals.
Another high moment for local sport fanatics was when the country’s Under-17 football team, the Baby Warriors, made history by conquering top favourites South Africa 3-1 to lift the Cosafa U/17 Championships trophy – a first for Namibia at that level.
Along with his victorious young lads the team’s mentor Timo Tjongarero – just behind Brave Warriors mentor Ricardo Mannetti – became only the second local coach to have won a Cosafa trophy.
Another notable highlight this year was when the country’s Rugby 7s team brought home a silver from the African 7s Rugby Cup after they lost 19 – 38 against Uganda in the final at the Safaricomp Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya.
The local boxing fraternity, as expected with every year that comes, is also another highlight of the year as we witnessed Julius ‘Blue Machine’ Indongo not only silencing the massive Russian crowd at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow, but the 33-year-old Namibian pugilist knocked out homeboy Eduard Troyanovsky in 40 seconds of the first round to capture the IBF/IBO junior welterweight world titles.
With the historic victory Indongo – who is now ranked second in the world and boasting a record of 21 wins from the same number of bouts – will go down in history as Namibia’s fourth boxer to hold world championship status, following in the footsteps of the legendary Harry ‘The Terminator’ Simon, Paulus ‘The Hitman’ Moses and more recently Paulus ‘The Rock’ Ambunda.
Also blazing the local boxing scene was Namibia’s award-winning promoter Nestor Tobias who for the umpteenth time was voted and awarded as the Best Boxing Promoter in Africa by the WBO. Veteran boxer Tyson Uushona was also in the mix of things this year when he defeated Polish opponent Rafal Jackiewicz to win the WBF world title, amongst the many achievements witnessed this year.
On a rather sad note, the local sport fraternity also experienced its fair share of challenges and setbacks – especially the football fraternity and by extension the entire sports sorority. Chief amongst this year’s setbacks was the repulsive developments at the offices of the Namibia Premier League (NPL), holed up at the premises of the equally underachieving Namibia Football Association (NFA).
In a space of almost ten months, just after naively losing the valuable MTC sponsorship deal, the NPL leadership embarrassingly failed to secure another sponsor that would help reactivate premiership football countrywide and thus forcing clubs plying their trade in the NPL to dump hundreds of players into the notorious streets of Katutura and other surrounding suburbs and towns.
Namibia’s U/20 football team missing out on this year’s Cosafa Cup underway in South Africa due to financial constraints is another massive setback and should have been avoided had proper planning been done.