NPL: Lies, damned lies, and statistics

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The 12th of May, marked on every football lover’s calendar as the day the Namibian Premier League (NPL) was to kick off, has quietly passed without a ball being kicked.

The high level delegation to State House and all major pronouncements made in the past couple of months – including the audacious promise of starting the league on the said date – were all but another great show of pretence, if not blatant lies.

For many a footballer, the promise to kick-start the league brought relief and hope that the quagmire they have endured for nearly a year would eventually be a thing of the past.

But for the umpteenth time footballers, and indeed lovers of the sport, were assured that the league would eventually kick off. The promise was so convincing that even the idiom ‘once bitten, twice shy’ didn’t deter anyone from believing the latest dose of untruths.

The football authorities are not to blame for the status quo, since this had always depended on the availability of sponsorships. It only becomes their fault when they go public to announce, without an iota of official confirmation, that the league would eventually kick off.

When promises are made at a level as high as that, they become lies when unfulfilled. What is worrying is that even after making empty promises previously, the football authorities were not cautious in managing expectations going forward.

As far as sport funding is concerned, we are a worried bunch. We are worried about the perception of sport by those who have a helicopter view of the state of not only football but the economy and society as a whole.

League football provided an income for hundreds of families, even when footballers’ wages were considered a pittance. For Namibian players to migrate to better-paying leagues the local league was a window through which scouts detected Namibian talent.

No NPL player signed with any foreign club this year – exactly due to the fact that they are inactive domestically. No foreign football club worth its salt would employ players who spent their day disposing garbage at home instead of being on a field of play.

Tribalism – and even racism – has hit a high tempo in the country. Every problem experienced is blamed on government, tribe or region. This blame is often misplaced, but we have developed itchy feet for blame games.

The level of distrust between tribes and ethnic groups has increased, and football was one of the tools through which we could fix this level of inter-tribal suspicion.

To politicians, football is perceived as a pastime activity. Elsewhere in the world, sport is a business and a tool to unite nations. But how do we unite Namibians when each footballer has crawled back into his tribal cocoon after the league was called off?

Our call is for football heads to stop their lies that the league would kick off this season. Even dummies wouldn’t have believed the May 12 date when in fact every respectable league in the world ends in May.

This weekend, football leagues in the whole of Europe and South Africa are ending. We must use the remaining time to reflect on what we are doing wrong and how to prepare – on all fronts – for the next season, which globally starts in August.

NPL and all stakeholders must use this sabbatical to iron out pending issues and tighten the loose ends. Another season without league football would simply mean those at the helm must excuse themselves and give a chance to those who have the genuine interest of the game at heart.

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