Sport development has remained a moving target in Namibia, soccer even more. But The Namibian Newspaper Cup has advanced and has come to establish a predictable sporting culture. Also, the competition is fast grooming itself as the mainstay of Namibia’s regular soccer tournament.
It all started with a column titled “Soccer Safari” with the inception of The Namibian newspaper during the country’s struggle for independence, over forty years ago. At the time, a soccer legend by the name Conrad Angula featured among the youngsters that the newspaper had assembled and started a weekly column in which he took Namibia’s sports readers through daily trials and tribulations of this popular sporting code.
Soccer Safari became a brand of the newspaper and Conrad’s regular name shifted to “Safari”. At the time we assumed that the problems that dogged sports were a function of colonialism and would dissipate with the dawn of freedom from Apartheid South Africa. Alas, this did not happen and we still sing the old Negro spiritual “We shall Overcome”, with regard to the development of soccer in the Land of the Brave. But seemingly we have a good story to tell and we must count our blessings, because the tournament in question seems to provide a ray of hope for the organisation and advancement of soccer in Namibia.
The Namibian Newspaper Cup Competition evolved years after independence and has come to establish itself with regard to the consistency of its standard of organisation and in particular the quality of play by the participants. It is encouraging to see that there is growth on the quality of soccer displayed by all the participating teams representing the fourteen regions of Namibia. They have all continued to show strength as potential winners. The scorelines are mostly in the same range with no obvious runaway victors and or obvious whipping boys and obvious champions. This is an encouraging achievement deserving more than just moral support.
One conventional global trend in soccer has been that after every major tournament there would be growth in the sporting code, characterised by mobility in the life of soccer players. We witness cross-club and cross-continental movement and players advance to stake their claims on high level performance and economic mobility. This accounts for the fact that soccer is among the highest economic providers in many advanced countries. In the past this had a trickle-down effect on Namibian soccer players as many Namibian soccer stars would be recruited by some low key international clubs, particularly from the South African environment.
Seemingly this trend has diminished as a result of the decline in the standard of Namibia’s soccer, marked by unyielding tensions in the central leadership of this beautiful game. As a result of these tensions the national teams are caught between the rock and a hard place with regard to laying hands on players of quality, as the start of regular soccer leagues is hardly ever predictable.
This year The Namibian Newspaper Cup went to Omaheke. The final square was between Kavango West and Omaheke Regions and it accounted for suspense and excitement. Omaheke had won the cup three times before and to the region this is a plausible achievement, evoking emotions. Congratulations Omaheke and keep the hopes high.
In my recent book titled “Timeless Bonds, An Appraisal of Namibia’s Development through Time”, I carried a chapter on The Namibian Newspaper Cup and my concluding paragraph reads: “Namibia’s soccer seems to continue missing the basics: targeting/grooming/developing soccer talent at a younger age must serve as the mainstay of advancing the game and any short cuts will only postpone the inevitable decline of our performance on the international rankings.
Namibia’s soccer fraternity, the clubs in particular, must heed the tacit contributions in action, of projects such as the Namibian Newspaper Cup Competition.” This statement is as relevant today as it were when it was first expressed.