Soccer in Namibia: The beautiful game is back!

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The development of soccer in Namibia has continued to defy wisdom and has ebbed and flowed. Historically, Namibians have played soccer throughout the country. Prominent among these featured names such as Hage Geingob with Etosha Lions of Tsumeb (which later became Chief Santos), Siseva Siririka, Afas Katjivirue, Raonga Mbura with African Stars, Nande and Tives Mbako, Pakie Nujoma with Tigers, Katjivazeua Kangootui, Pius Eigowab, Fifi Hochobeb, with Black Africa.

The list is long. Along the way the game advanced in intensity and provided numerous possibilities with opportunities opening up for Namibians to ply their trade internationally. Even more, the international stage availed vast opportunities for Namibian coaches to expand their talent through coaching engagements to other nations of the world. This did not happen much.

Namibians preferred to run circles around themselves as the beautiful game has continued to be locked in strife. These limitations have come to confound this otherwise promising sports code and we continue to sing the old Negro spiritual “We Shall Overcome”.

On the positive note, the game has returned to the pitch and we now enjoy soccer throughout the nation. True to their nature, supporters of the various clubs have unconditionally returned to the arenas and they fill stadiums as ever before, to rally their teams through voice to succeed.

Because of the late start with the soccer league, matches are scheduled back-to-back to the extent that there are at least two games during the week in order to compensate for lost time. This unfortunate necessity applies enormous pressure on the players and administrators alike, and in no small measure to the supporters, many of whom lose opportunities to see their teams play because of work obligations as they are sometimes in and out of town during the week.

Traditionally, the best opportunities for most of the fans would be weekends when all are off-duty or able to sneak from regular farming assignments to cheer their teams. But the fans have come to appreciate that this is an unfortunate necessity if we are to get soccer back onto the realm of competitive sport and to this end they have to play their part. We are all on the same page and we hold thumbs that the future will be pregnant with promise. And when I listened to my brother Patric Kauta on radio, I was encouraged by his mettle and I found solace in the fact that he had stepped to center stage. That in itself is a source of reassurance.

I have not been to see many matches since the start of the league, safe following them on radio. African Stars started very strong. The team has won ten and drew three of the 13 matches they have played so far and that gave them a wonderful head start, the kind that was Black Africa’s monopoly over the years.

After Stars won their first five matches, and I had a word with Bobby Samaria and Lesley Kozonguizi coach and manager of Stars respectively, separately, to wish them well and I used the opportunity to caution them on what in soccer is called match fatigue. We all agreed that this can be a stark reality along the way as the pressure is now on their players, the coach and the manager with the rank and file enraged each time the team did not win. Latter phenomenon is about to kick in.

The only match I was able to watch live was between African Stars and Black Africa. Both teams gave a good account of themselves. African Stars played like log leaders, they confidently took the game to Black Africa. They however battled to bridge the disconect between their midfield and the front line. This forced them to waggle the ball through the flanks in order to get the ball close to BA’s goal mouth.

This formula stretched them and made them vulnerable to BA’s solid defense, which seemed briefed in advance of Stars’ vulnerability. Black Africa however, seemed to be haunted by problems different from Stars. They had a solid defense and this is reason all the more they did not concede goals in this match. They had a brilliant connect between their defense, midfield and front line, but had poor finishing. BA’s flanks also did wonders to convert ball into goal keeper’s box, but seemingly this was not their day as their front line consistently wasted potential scores. In the end it was zero-all.

Finally, I may caution African Stars and all the teams that beware of Black Africa. The squad I saw reminded me of the Black Africa I have led over the years and I think it is a matter of time before they recapture their winning ways. Just watch the space.

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