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Rolling in the baskets with Isadore Nell

2022-09-30  Carlos Kambaekwa

Rolling in the baskets with Isadore Nell

The Kobos settlement, a relatively pocket-sized enclave, sandwiched between the Naukluft Mountains and Rehoboth in the Hardap region, will be a hive of activity this weekend. Wait a minute and hold your horses; it is not horseracing. The ladies’ game of netball takes centre stage in the heart of Kobos, with mouth-watering exhibition netball matches on the menu.

In an effort to revive the game in that neck of the woods, retired basket rattlers from Khomasdal outfit Young Ones put shoulders to the wheel and have been burning the midnight oil to resurrect the club with the ultimate aim of carving a place in the country’s topflight league in the not-too-distant future. Well-known netball, sports administrator and former player Isadore Nell have teamed up with trident former national team players Elma Brockerhoff, Tina Cloete and Juanitha van Wyk to organise a fundraising reunion with the ultimate aim to raise funds for disadvantaged players in the rural areas to realise their dream. The two-day sporting bonanza gets underway in Kobos tomorrow morning. In today’s edition of your favourite weekly sport feature, Tales of the Legends, profiling our sports personalities present and posthumously, New Era Sport brings to you, our esteemed reader, the untold netball journey of the ‘Iron Lady’ of Namibian netball – the one and only Isadore Nell.



The eldest child and only daughter of four siblings, Isadore Nell (Neé Augustus), was birthed on the 14th of December 1959 in the uniquely beautiful Mother City – Cape Town, South Africa.

 She was introduced to netball at an early age – 14 to be precise. 

“I was selected to represent the Claremont Wynberg District team but my old lady would have none of that, as she didn’t want me to travel all the way to Claremont for trials. At age 15, I played for Fairways Netball Club and also turned out for the Battswood Secondary School first team,” she recalled. 

In 1977, the family relocated to South West Africa and surfaced in the city of bright lights (Windhoek). They found shelter in the slightly-affluent Khomasdal township, a residential area for ostensible “civilised none whites”. 

Nell was subsequently introduced to Jennifer van der Heever, who was rattling baskets for exciting Khomasdal outfit Young Ones. 

The new kid on the block established herself as a vital cog in the Queens at Night’s smooth sailing locomotive, winning several high-profile club tournaments between 1978 and 1980. 

In 1985, she got hitched to her long-time beau, Edwin Nell, and her son Edwardo was born out of the marriage. 

The kind-hearted couple then adopted Bradley. 

Although she finally called time on her flourishing playing career, Nell was not entirely lost to the game and was duly rewarded for her immense contribution to the overall growth and development of the game locally and internationally. 

She was overwhelmingly elected president of Young Ones Netball Club – and as they say, the rest is history. 

Under her shrewd stewardship, the club undertook two tours down south across the Orange River to participate in the popular Holiday Inn Inter-Provincial Club Netball Championship. 

“Eish, I still cherish those memorable moments. We were drawn in the same group as the dangerous Boland netball side with fellow Namibian Irene van Dyk featuring for them at the time as she was studying in South Africa. 

“Our goal defenders Liza de Voss and Christiane Goagoses, were on song on that particular day, thwarting everything thrown at them and even though we narrowly lost by five goals in a closely-contested encounter, it was indeed end-to-end stuff.” 

Upon their return from South Africa, Young Ones went on to clinch several club championships on home soil with relative ease, proudly sponsored by the Namibian Breweries. The Queens at Night also supplied the bulk of players to the South West Africa Provincial netball team. 

The ‘Iron Lady’ of Netball Namibia boasts an impressive resume amongst a horde of astonishing countless accolades, ranging from a technical supervisor, team selector, and overseeing the U/20 youth team’s silver medal collection at the Zone-V1 U/20 Youth Games at the Katutura Youth Complex in 2006. 

Between 2007 and 2011, she was deservedly roped into the leadership structures of the Khomas Netball League, serving as chairperson on the recommendation of Aunt Corrie Byleveldt. She led the victorious Namibian team to Boland that clinched the third division trophy in 2008, before repeating the feat the following year having been upgraded to division two. 

Nell also served on the Association of Netball Namibia Disciplinary Committee and was at the forefront when they successfully negotiated with the City of Windhoek to upgrade the netball courts at the Khomasdal field to be fitted with floodlights. 

In 2010, she was head of mission when Namibia dispatched two teams to Bradford, England and Cardiff, Scotland in the United Kingdom. The teams played a total of five games, winning four, which was certainly no mean feat. 

The outspoken madam also masterminded the group that solicited a lucrative sponsorship from De Beers for five local players and also played an influential role in elbowing the ineffective ANNA exco out of office via a successful motion of no confidence.  

In 2011, Nell was co-opted vice president of netball development, a portfolio she still holds and is the proud holder of a certificate in technical training attained in Gaborone, Botswana during the World multi-sport youth championship. 

As it stands, the game of netball is played in all 14 regions but only five regions are actively playing competitive league netball.

“I foresee a great future for the game. We have several programmes running, developing coaches, umpires and players’ pathways in line with our neighbours, South Africa.” 

Nell is optimistic that Namibia will finally reclaim her rightful place amongst the continent’s finest netball-playing nations and looks forward to the upcoming elective congress slated for November. The country is currently perched on the 22nd spot in the world rankings. 

In a parting shot, the ‘Iron Lady’ is hopeful and humbly appeals to local authorities to construct a world-class indoor netball complex. 

Nell, however, blasted local authorities for their apparent lack of insight, or rather, inability to preserve the importance of sport. 

“Just look at the Khomasdal field; its playing surface resembles a neglected garbage garden. The netball courts and changing rooms are in shambles, absolutely improperly maintained whilst the puke-inducing ablution facilities are an eyesore and virtually none existent.”          

2022-09-30  Carlos Kambaekwa

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