Gobabis-MTC Namibia Premiership new boys Young African Football Club defied the odds stacked against them by clinching the inaugural edition of the annual coveted Debmarine Namibia Cup.
Playing in front of a vociferous home crowd at the Legare Stadium in Gobabis on Saturday afternoon, the boys from the Cattle Country came from a goal from behind to send their opponents, fellow Premiership campaigners Mighty Gunners, packing by 3 goals to 2 after extra time in a thrilling five-goal final.
Entering the field as firm favourites, judging from their astonishing performance in the domestic topflight football league of late, Young African found themselves a goal down nine minutes into match when Vernon Claasen netted a goal to give the visitors a shock lead.
The goal awakened the hosts as they started bombarding the men in camouflage from all angles. They were finally rewarded when Ally Mujikejera brought the teams on level terms again with half an hour gone on the clock (1-1).
Mali Ngarizemo’s fired-up charges took the lead for the first time in the match through discarded Tura Magic goal poacher Sammy Maharero, who sent the enthusiastic crowd into frenzy with a fine strike to put the boys from the Cattle Country in the lead almost on the stroke of halftime.
After resumption, the soldiers threw more bodies into the attack but found that oak door of African defence firmly shut, as they held on for dear life with some resolute defending.
However, the men in camouflage uniform would not budge and were finally rewarded for their persistent efforts when second-half substitute Gabes Dawid netted the equaliser to send the teams into extra time.
They were level at 2-all after the regulation time of 90-minutes with the match going into added 30 minutes extra time to determine the winner of the national knockout cup.
With the players starting to show fatigue and the match destined for the dreaded penalty shootout, up popped Salat Kaunatjike to put his team ahead with a fine finish – sending the large crowd into raptures. And that’s how it remained: Young African 3-Mighty Gunners 2.
The ambitious Gobabis outfit became the proud recipients of a whopping N$500,000 in prize money.
All was not lost for the losers, as Asser Haraseb walked away with the prestigious Man of the Match award accompanied by a princely sum of N$5,000, while an extra N$5,000 went to a charity organisation of his preference.
A tearful Ngarizemo said he was impressed by the way his boys handled their more experienced opponents on the day, adding that it was not easy but in the end his boys held on. “This is a great achievement for us and can hopefully also help us progress well in the domestic league as well,” a delighted Ngarizemo said after the match.
“Overall, I’m impressed with the work rate from my boys, but we failed to convert our chances and that proved the difference. We finish as runners-up again and now have to pick up the pieces and march on,” a dejected Gunners gaffer Gebhardt Hengari said after the match.
Tura Magic’s lanky striker Ita Keimuine received the Golden Boot award and N$20,000, courtesy of his five strikes during the early stages of the tournament, while Young African’s Himee Hengombe was deservedly voted Best Player of the Tournament and walked away with N$20,000.
Ngarizemo won the Best Coach accolade that came along with N$15,000, while African’s shot stopper Mata Mbemutjiua received the nod ahead of his peers between the sticks, to walked off with the Golden Gloves ward and N$15,000 in cash to conclude a memorable day for the league rookies.