By Francis Tsawayo WINDHOEK Namibian junior football took its first steps towards recognition with the recent graduation of young Richard Namwandi from the Manchester United youth Academy. Namwandi, who began playing football at the age of 11, like most boys worked hard and through encouragement from his family continued to play until August this year when opportunity knocked. Sharing his experiences with New Era, Namwandi, 14, said his father had assisted him with applying for a position at the academy. Since his father did all the applications on the Internet, Namwandi said, it was not really clear that he would end up leaving for Britain. He subsequently left on August 10 to attend a weeklong training programme, which would not only benefit his personal skills but also put Namibia in the books of the academy at Old Trafford for the first time. Joined by counterparts from South Africa but with the majority hailing from Britain, Namwandi walked the same corridors and onto the pitch that most stars walked before the big cheques came. Filled with anticipation at the prospect of training at one of the best academies that have produced players like David Beckham, Peter and Gary Neville, amongst others, Namwandi noted his first surprise was the drastic change in training methods and that the training was more competitive. The environment, the training and the conduct of facilitators exhibited competitiveness that made it hard to believe it was just youth soccer, he revealed. "So much emphasis is placed on everything you do, that one learns to conduct oneself as a professional at an early stage." Namwandi described his previous local training as mostly focusing on dribbling and ball handling, which was totally different from what he was now being exposed to. He was exposed to a totally new training programme that granted equal importance to all the aspects of football. From dribbling and ball handling, Namwandi soon saw himself exposed to world class youth football training that encompassed not only what he had learnt back home but purposeful dribbling as well, with the purpose of either to defend, attack or otherwise just to maintain possession. The young star said that the training also focused on skills development, where the slender-built young star had the opportunity to partake in different skills challenges, and at the end of the day a winner would be selected. In addition, the young Namibian representative took to the pitch to practise how to convert spot kicks, including how to take the famous "bend it like Beckham free kick" and "cob web cleaner" penalty shots that enter into the far corners of the goalpost. Namwandi defines the main difference between the training he received abroad and that which he got locally as at the academy the focus is on tactical passing, creating space and teamwork while back home the focus centres around dribbling. He noted that discipline within the sport is the most significant value that the academy has cultivated within his character on and off the pitch. The young bright-eyed footballer encourages other aspiring youths to follow their dreams and not to stop believing in themselves if they are to achieve their goals. Richard is currently in Grade 8 at the Deutsche HÃƒÆ’Ã†'Ãƒâ€ 'ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â 'ÃƒÆ’Ã†''Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¶here Private Schule in Windhoek where New Era caught up with him before he went for his soccer practice for the school team. The young star, who has put Namibia on the map, believes one day he will wear the Brave Warriors regalia and hoist a big trophy over his head for his country.
2006-09-13 00:00:00 12 years ago