The recent appointment of Namibian football great Collin Benjamin as new head coach of the Brave Warriors, in my humble opinion, has been long overdue.
He remains one of the country’s most decorated retired footballers and highly qualified as a coach. So, it is only fair and expected that the local football fraternity was going to tap from his fountain of football wisdom at some point.
Africa has long been a victim of the incessant global ‘brain drain’, which has seen some of the continent’s most talented and most qualified footballers and ex-footballers leaving Africa for greener pastures in Europe and elsewhere.
But in recent years, countries such as Senegal, Cameroon and others have taken a much-needed strong stand against this ‘brain drain’, and have now started looking inward for talented players, coaches and administrators to lead their respective national teams and associations.
Time and history have proven and taught us that foreign coaches have little to offer to the development and elevation of African football.
Foreign coaches, who many a time come to Africa expecting European conditions in all facets of our game, don’t have enough patience to operate on shoe-string budgets, malfunctioning facilities and with ill-conditioned players to help countries succeed. They also don’t understand the football cultures of the various African teams they are entrusted with and that creates a disconnect with the local fans.
In our case, the Namibia Football Association (NFA) has over the years hired and fired countless foreign coaches, who brought nothing but further despair for our beloved Brave Warriors.
It was only until the arrival of Ricardo Mannetti did the Brave Warriors manage to emulate and surpass the heights of the Class of 98, which withstood all odds to qualify for the 1998 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
Unlike the foreign coaches who came and went empty-handed, Mannetti and his charges brought back a sense of national pride in the Brave Warriors, and went on to win the 2015 Cosafa Cup and also qualified the country to both the 2019 Afcon and the 2018 African Nations Championship (Chan).
All these successes came about because the NFA leadership at the time took a huge leap of faith by entrusting its very own son of the soil (Mannetti) with the mammoth responsibility to rebuild, reshape and to turbocharge the national team to greater heights within the region, continent and globally.
As they say, sometimes all the things we need in life are mostly in front of our eyes but we insist on admiring our neighbours’ silky-green lawns, instead of watering and perfecting our own lawns.
So, just as we did with Mannetti, so should we do with Benjamin. Contrary to the opinions of many armchair critics, Benjamin is no newcomer to this level of the game, as he campaigned at the highest level in Europe as a player with Hamburger SV II and 1860 Munich in the German Bundesliga and in the Uefa Champions League.
After his playing days, he became and remains the only Namibian to acquire a Uefa A-coaching licence, and went on to coach the youth set-up of 1860 Munich between 2013 and 2014, before being promoted to the position of assistant coach at 1860 München II.
Upon his return home, Benjamin had the opportunity to get a feel of local football when he became Mannetti’s assistant coach heading into the 2019 Afcon. All that experience on the European circuit, coupled with his many qualifications as a coach, should be enough to help Benjamin guide the Brave Warriors to even greater heights.
But we should also be realistic with ourselves and understand that our football situation at home (no active premiership and infightings) will not make it any easier for him and his technical team to perfectly plan and execute. But with enough support, patience and patriotism, Benjamin will succeed.
He might not be the perfect one as many would have wanted, but he is definitely the right one for the Brave Warriors at this point in time.
Until next time, sharp, sharp!!