New Era (NE) Managing Editor Toivo Ndjebela recently had a candid sit-down interview with former Brave Warriors gaffer Ricardo Mannetti (RM), where the coach openly spoke about the quality of Namibian football, what needs to be done for the Brave Warriors to catch up with the rest of Africa, the current state of the Namibia Football Association (NFA) and a whole lot of other issues. In today’s edition, we bring you our esteemed reader the second and final part of this extensive interview.
NE: Still on Namibian football, coach, I want your opinion as a Namibian and as a football person. Currently, there is this ongoing massive debate between the leadership of the Namibia Premier League (NPL) and the NFA around the promotion and relegation of teams within our local league. The NFA’s Normalisation Committee seems to suggest that teams that were relegated last season should remain in the league and be part of the upcoming season. What is your take on this huge debate coach?
RM: Eish … it’s a tough question but let me put it this way, we as Namibians should start learning from our past mistakes. About two years ago, the country didn’t have league football due to more or less the same issues and those were very dark days for Namibian football, especially for the players. Now here we are in a situation where we didn’t have First Division football and that has badly impacted the big league [NPL] and the NFA by extension, so the two leaderships are now at loggerheads on what is to be done. Maybe both parties are correct or maybe one is wrong and the other might be right, but it is really a very difficult question for me to answer as I also don’t have all the full details regarding the issue between the two bodies.
NE: Fair enough … but don’t you think it will bring ease and good cooperation if Namibia harmonises the operations of all leagues, for instance putting the NPL, the First and Second Division under one body that will oversee and embrace the growth of all three leagues, as opposed to the current situation where the NPL is saying the inactivity of the two lower divisions is none of their business as the lower things are the responsibility of the NFA? Won’t that bring much needed harmony and accountability?
RM: I think we had a similar arrangement in the past, but I’m speaking under correction, but it somehow didn’t work out due to finances and other issues, and that tells you that there is a problem somewhere that causes the current back and forth in our football. So I say we need to go back and ask ourselves, what are we doing wrong? How can we do better to avoid such scenarios going forward, because if we don’t ask ourselves these difficult questions, we will be returning to the same place after every five years and nobody wants such a situation for our football. The reason we are finding ourselves in this situation again is because we didn’t properly deal with our past issues and if not appropriately dealt with, it will keep reoccurring.
NE: Now let’s turn our attention to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) coach, as a fan of our beloved Brave Warriors, I saw a team determined and fighting with great spirit but our results somehow spoke a different language in three group matches. What is your take on the national team’s performance at the 2019 Afcon in Egypt?
RM: Let me tackle this question like this: I want people to differentiate between the team’s results and the team’s performance. As coaches many a time we ask ourselves, how do we need to perform in order to activate the desired result and when you reflect on all three of our games at Afcon, there were times we played defensive football with so much great spirit and there were also games we opened up, for instance against South Africa and Ivory Coast but still the results didn’t come forth. So to answer your question, I was happy and impressed with the way my boys executed our game plans but I was not happy with how they [players] executed our game plans in order to get a result.
So that is the difference between the team’s performance and the results. They executed out game plans, but how we executed our game plans failed to get us the results. But football fans are very weird people, at times they will tell you that they don’t care how the team plays as long as they get the results and then on other occasions they will complain and say although the team won, they don’t care about results because they want to watch beautiful football also.
So it’s a very tricky reality we face as coaches. Maybe to also add, at this year’s Afcon, out of the 24 countries that participated Namibia was the second last on the list of teams or countries that are poorly funded; look at our infrastructure but people still have all these high expectations about Namibian football at that level. There are things that we as a country still need to get right before we can say now we are ready to compete.
In my opinion, I say that with the little resources and infrastructure at our disposal, Namibia has done very well over the years compared to other countries with the same population as ours. African football is a different beast compared for instance to Cosafa, because there [Afcon] you face players who continuously and persistently played in continental club and country competitions since age 17 and then you have players, like in our case, who hardly get the chance to play in continental club competitions and their country qualifies for Afcon very 10 years. How do we compare the two? So that’s why I say we still have a lot of things to do in order to get there.
NE: What do we need to do as a country to get to the level where we can comfortably say now Namibia is ready to compete and become a serious force within African football. Be it at Afcon level or even at continental club competitions such as the African Champions League?
RM: We need to take the road that African Stars have taken, and let me commend them for really putting in so much effort in the vision of their club. Namibian premiership clubs need to participate more in African competitions such as the Champions League, because that is the only way our football can improve and the same goes for the national team. Irrespective of how expensive it is, or how long it takes, Namibian clubs need to start taking African club competitions very seriously because those are the platforms that shape the individual player and in the process the national coach will also benefit from that process because by the time you take a player to Afcon, he would have already gained enough exposure of African football and will manage the pressure much easier. But now in our case, many a time our players come from amateur setups and then boom!, straight to Afcon. That’s not how it works, so I really have to commend African Stars for what they are currently doing and I hope other teams will follow suit. So, let’s start with continental club competitions and that will give birth to our success at Afcon as a national team.
So I hope with Stars doing it now, the likes of Black Africa, Tigers and other big clubs are already putting their houses in order because club football at African level is where it all starts.
NE: A light one as we part ways coach, who is Ricardo Mannetti outside football? What keeps you busy when away from football?
RM: People might not believe it as I always appear talkative and outgoing, but I’m really someone who keeps to myself at almost all times. If I’m not at home playing with the kids or watching TV, then I’m somewhere locked up listening to music. I’m a huge music fanatic, I love local music and always make sure to support local music. But all in all, I’m just a plain family guy who loves music.
NE: Thanks a lot coach for taking time to speak to us and open up about issues that are close to your heart and Namibian football in general.
RM: It was indeed a pleasure, thank you!