WINDHOEK – A distraught mother of a national junior hockey player is crying foul after her daughter was unfairly grounded from the national under-16 girls hockey side.
At the centre of the storm is the omission of Liya Herunga from the Namibian junior hockey side, scheduled to tour Zimbabwe for the annual two-nation tournament next month.
New Era Sport has established that Liya, 14, was deemed too good to play for the under-16s and was summarily removed from the under-16 squad and upgraded to the national under-18 team.
However, this decision did not sit exactly well with the girl’s parents who feel that such an undertaking should have been done in consultation and subsequent consent from them.
And to worsen matters, the under-18 team withdrew from the tournament as most of the envisaged touring squad members are writing exams.
Liya demanded to be reinstated in the under-16 team but defiant head coach Maryke Short would have none of that. Contacted to shed light on the debacle, Short declined to comment, saying she will only speak to the media upon completion of her scheduled engagement with both the NHU and National Sports Commission (NSC).
However, Short’s apparent refusal to reinstate Liya has irked her mother Ruth Herunga, a well-known legal practitioner, who has taken to social media to vent her frustration.
“The girl is just fourteen, how can you move a fourteen-year-old to the under-18s while there are girls older than her in the under-16 team? My daughter has been traumatised with this sudden exclusion and this is not the first time for Liya to be subjected to prejudicial treatment – she was also left to rot on the substitute bench during the NSSU campaign in Bloemfontein, South Africa,” charged the irate mother.
The St Paul’s grade nine pupil has been playing hockey since the age of six and has been capped for the national youth teams since 2016. She was voted sportswoman of year at her school’s year-end awards ceremony in 2016.
“The coach knew very well that the under-18 hockey side would not travel to Zimbabwe but deliberately moved her to the team to make way for a white kid. She must take note that we would not tolerate racism in Namibian sport, notably when young innocent souls are the victims. Indigenous Namibian athletes should not be made to feel they are only in the team because of the colour of their skin but purely on merit,” said Liya’s incensed mother.
Namibia’s First Lady Monica Geingos also took to Twitter to express her disappointment at the unfolding saga while also showing sympathy towards Liya and her parents.
“The issue here is not talent, it’s fair opportunity. An all-white team would imply that talent only exists in one demographic and they should be left alone due to performance. I know the pain of protecting a child from micro aggression. Only way from here is to question her talent and make her feel undeserving,” tweeted Geingos.
Insiders with intimate knowledge about the inner doings in the corridors at Doc Jubber House revealed to New Era Sport that there is systematic racism in Namibian hockey with athletes of colour made to feel inferior when it comes to team selection.
“Just look at the composition of our team, does that represent our demographics?” The basic criteria for participation at junior level should be about development, something our sports administrators fail to address,” lamented an insider with close links to the ongoing shenanigans in domestic hockey.