The Ndeulipula Hamutumwa Sport Trust has learnt with shock of the disgusting incident involving a young Namibian hockey star Liya Herunga, from the Namibian U-16 Girls Hockey Team touring Zimbabwe in November.
Sport is one of the world’s strongest unifiers, bringing together people of all ages, races and backgrounds as athletes, spectators, officials and volunteers. And yet, even to this day, racism remains rife at school, club and even national levels. Racism involves acts where people are treated unfairly because of their race, colour, descent, nationality, ethnicity or belief.
Racial discrimination in sport has been strongly condemned by many public figures across the country, including NSC and all other sports stakeholders. In team sports, such as hockey in this case, racial barriers can hinder the performance of a team and deteriorate the athlete’s spirit and the team’s unity.
As pointed out by Namibian First Lady Monica Geingos, racial micro-aggression is decreasing the levels of self-confidence of black teenagers in Namibia. This blatant exclusion is an example which we hope sheds light on this serious situation. Racism, even among young people, has become so normalised in our society that too few people call it out.
It is appalling to the Trust that young talented Namibians are still being awarded opportunities based on race, and we strongly believe that all talented athletes should be given equal opportunities across the breadth of the country. The Trust applauds the entire nation for its continual support of Liya in this case. Liya is undoubtedly a talented young player who has represented our nation before, and does not deserve to be inexplicably cut from the team or made to play less time than her teammates. As a young black athlete, it is very unfair that she is being expected to prove herself based on what appears purely to be prejudice.
She has the potential to become a powerful role model to young black girls across the country, inspiring them to continue participating in sport and achieve national and international recognition in sport codes dominated by other races and tribes.
The fact that a racist system is hindering Liya from achieving her full potential is unsportsmanlike, unacceptable and un-Namibian. It goes against the Harambee Spirit of holding hands and pulling together in one direction.
It is important to note what Liya’s mother expressed, that it is strange for a multi-cultural and multi-racial country like ours to be represented by a white-only team. At the moment, not all races and tribes are represented in the different sport codes in Namibia, with certain sport codes still primarily attracting certain races.
It remains a fact that the 300 years of minority white oppressive rule suffered in Namibia is not going to be wiped out in 28 years. It is up to us as a unified nation to create the change we want to see, to bring about equality among our people. This will all only change with a concerted effort from those of us who believe in solidarity to create unity amongst all Namibians.
Following the Namibia Sports Commission’s Press Release of August 22, 2018, The Ndeulipula Hamutumwa Sport Trust would like to extend its support of the Commission’s final decision to recall the current coach and reinstate Liya in the U16 team. We also extend our support of the Commission’s zero tolerance policy on racism, tribalism and other forms of discrimination in sport.
Evidently, there is still much racial and tribal discrimination in our great nation, and we encourage all those facing such discrimination to stand up and share their stories. In this way we can address this issue and begin the eradication of such unfair and prejudicial treatment.
This situation should serve as a warning to all sports federations that such prejudice and selectivity will not go unnoticed. Our players work hard to earn national colours, and it is unconstitutional and unfair to be selective of who can represent our country based on their race or tribe.
The Trust hopes that this instance of racism will encourage athletes and federations to stop seeing colour and start working towards the united goal of achieving sports excellence in Namibia.