WINDHOEK – It is not every day that Namibian football fans are caught up in the razzmatazz of a major cup final, which goes beyond the playing field to statistically gauge both gaffers toe-to-toe.
Ever since the date and venue for the Debmarine Namibia Cup mega final was announced, which sees newly crowned Namibian champions African Stars taking much-improved Unam at the Sam Nujoma Stadium (16h00) tomorrow.
However, the debate amongst football enthusiasts has been around the pedigree of players and what both clubs have achieved as far as domestic football history is concerned.
But little, if any, has been said about the men at the forefront of both clubs. That is about Stars mentor Bobby Samaria and Unam gaffer Ronnie Kanalelo, the men who steered their respective clubs to the final of the country’s biggest football showpiece.
Saturday’s grand finale between Samaria and Kanalelo is just the upper layer of the history between the two mentors, as their life and career story is rich in history and narrative, stretching back to the formative years of their football careers.
They both have a lot in common, as the two men are products of the coastal town of Walvis Bay, where they kick started their blossoming football journey at coastal giants Eleven Arrows in Kuisebmond back in the days. Ironically, both grew up in the same neigbourhood, Menesia Kamatoto Street, in Kuisebmond.
In later years, the two would go on to coagulate their careers at former Namibian multiple champions Black Africa.
Not only that both were highly respected footballers of their era and were amongst the first crop of footballers to represent independent Namibia at junior and senior levels at the dawn of Namibia’s democracy.
Kanalelo moved on to play his trade with South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns and Bobby solidifying his name locally as one of the finest midfielders in the business while also becoming a much sought after coach in the Premiership.
But fast-forward, both men have now hung up their togs and currently rank amongst Namibia’s shrewd mentors in the business. It is no secret that Samaria enjoys more success in local football when compared to his novice rival Kanalelo. The stocky witty Samaria has won almost all football competitions Namibia has on offer.
He rose to prominence on the local coaching scene when he won the MTC Namibia Premier League (NPL) title with African Stars in 2009, before cementing Stars’ perfect rise to stardom with a double the following year, winning both the league and the Leo NFA Cup titles the following season.
It did not stop there, Samaria added the 2015 Bidvest Namibia Cup to his impressive resume, with Tigers. But in 2016, he was lured back to his happy hunting ground at Stars, winning the 2016 Standard Bank Super Cup on his first attempt.
Still at the helm of “Starlile”, Samaria season steered the Red-hot Stars to their 4th league title. It now remains to be seen if he will be able to repeat the double by winning tomorrow’s Debmarine Cup final against Kanalelo’s charges.
Although Kanalelo has not enjoyed much success locally as a coach, make no mistake; he remains one of the highly experienced and well-qualified mentors while his coaching philosophy has helped shaped the unfashionable students.
Locally, Kanalelo coached Black Africa in 2008, Eleven Arrows in 2009, both Tigers and Tura Magic in 2010 before returning to South Africa in July 2011 to be goalkeeper coach at Maritzburg United. He was back at Black Africa in 2015 but abruptly left to take charge of Unam.
As far as international exposure and expertise is concerned, as coach, Kanalelo has over the years proven that his technical and tactical ability is almost second to none, all thanks to international exposure while at Maritzburg United and Bloemfontein Celtic between 2011 and 2014.
In his warning salvo, Kanalelo yesterday said: “It will not really be a different ball game but the only difference is that it is a cup competition. We are highly excited and looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead. Stars know us and we also know what they are capable of as a big club. We will apply the same approach and mentality, but one thing that I can tell you is that it will definitely be a very tactical game. We will strive to keep the ball and maintain a solid buildup and play with great patience. I have to admit that in terms of experience and depth, Stars have the upper hand going into Saturday’s final but I am not really bothered by that aspect, as my boys are patient, happy and ready to give their best”
Samaria on the other hand said: “We played Unam twice this ended season and we won on both occasions. But I do not want to read too much into that because this is a cup final and anything can happen in such competitions. Results can go either way in cup competitions but we are ready and positive of lifting the trophy come Saturday. The boys are relaxed and positive, and I have no doubt we will get the job done. Not saying it will be easy, but as said, I am positive we can get the job done.”