The year 2022 will mark almost five years without a professional football league in the country due to endless infighting between football executives within the Namibia Football Association and the Namibia Premier League.
Football was our life; not only that it served as a source of income to the footballers, but it was an ecosystem that benefited everyone within communities from the vendors, security entities, taxi businesses to printing shops, the list is endless.
When I look back at Afcon 1998, we didn’t even reach the knockout stage. But, believe me, the country had so much hope that in the next 10 or 15 years, we would be the “southern African Brazil” because there was so much potential due to the players we had at our disposal. We were even ranked 81st by FIFA, according to fifaranking.net in July 1998. A dream that never materialised. When the Brave Warriors defeated Benin 8-2, I had already imagined them going as far as the quarter-finals at the next Afcon and being a regular participant, However, if you look at how Benin is doing in their current rating (rated 17th in Africa and 83rd in the world, while Brave Warriors is currently ranked 26th in Africa and 112th in the world) according to fifaranking.net 2021, you would not believe they were once begging us not to score more.
When Namibia became Cosafa champions in 2015, even non-football followers celebrated and screamed at their TV sets because another wave of hope was instilled in our minds, and most Namibians believed in those young talented footballers to go on and achieve many things in football. But instead of emulating the success of 2015, there was little to show in the following years. The dream was that our 2015 Cosafa triumphs would generate more success at the Afcon level or at the World Cup level. But it wasn’t to be, and the infighting continues.
I have to admit that I was amongst those who had so much hope in the current NFA administration when it was voted to the helm at the 28th Ordinary Elective Congress due to a well-articulated manifesto, as well as a visit to one of my favourite talk shows on Supersport, African Soccer Show, where a promise was made that competitive football in Namibia would resume immediately. Until today, the nation is waiting on that promise.
Fortunately, Namibia as a country has always been blessed with brilliant footballers. Among those exciting talents are two young Namibian footballers performing exceptionally well and excelling in the South African Premier Soccer League (PSL), namely Peter Shalulile of Sundowns, who is the current PSL top scorer, and Deon Hotto, who has performed consistently in Orlando Pirates’ colours. As a nation, we yearn to see more of our talented footballers showcasing their talents, not just abroad, but also here at home in our domestic league. It’s sad that many Namibian kids with football dreams are not able to achieve their dreams of playing professional football due to the infighting of NFA and NPL executives that seems to have no end. As a country, we want to see our young footballers from all corners of our beautiful country flying our flag high around the globe through the most-loved sport, but not amidst the current squabbling at NFA House.
Even more challenging, our current national team is expected to honour international games while competing against other African countries who have fully-fledged and professional domestic football structures in place. It’s obviously not realistic to expect the young football players to perform at the highest level, and get the nation to qualify for Afcon or even for the World Cup one day if our domestic league continues to be dormant for the foreseeable future. At the centre of this bickering, our football bosses choose not to seriously consider the plight of our young footballers, who have now been unemployed for years. Until when can this go on? The young footballers deserve better from their country, and the country deserves better from our football administrators.
Efforts were, however, made to restore unity within the Namibian football house when Fifa assigned a Normalisation Committee to run things and restore our game on 8 February 2019. I’m not sure if the situation made bad matters worse, but all I know is that football never resumed. As a nation, we pray and hope that football would resume not only for Brave Warriors’ successes, but to enhance and restore our communities’ livelihood, to get the youth out of the streets and to nurture their talents so that they may become superstars who will consequently empower their families and communities.