Sport Perspective – System Error

The Brave Warriors received a battering from the public this week after failing yet again to string a run of positive results together.

Namibia crashed out of the race to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations after losing 3-0 to Congo-Brazzaville in Pointe-Noire on Sunday.

Not surprisingly, debate surrounding the state of Namibian football has been rife since, with many of these conversations suggesting the sacking of the entire football hierarchy, the technical team and a new set of players as the only feasible solution to the country’s perennial woes at international level.

The 1-0 win for Namibia in the first leg in Windhoek a fortnight earlier peppered over the systematic cracks, which were ruthlessly exposed in the pressure-cooker that is the Pointe-Noire Sports Complex, as the Congolese demonstrated their superiority by steam-rolling past their flailing opponents.

Namibian football – and by extension the entire sporting fraternity – has one glaring problem, and that is a lack of stable financial investment.

What the NFA receives from government, N$8 million for its operations annually, is the equivalent of half of Congo’s total expenditure for the past two matches against Namibia.

Congo fielded a side made up entirely of professionals, compared to just 40% for Namibia, who’s squad is predominately selected from the ‘semi-professional’ Namibia Premier League. Congo’s captain Delvin Ndinga recently played for Greek club Olympiakos against the famous English football team Manchester United in the last 16 of the Uefa Champions League.

That in itself is evidence of the gulf in class between Namibia and Congo.

While it is a constitutional right to have an opinion, most views regarding the Brave Warriors are unfortunately misconceptions.

Namibians need to learn to measure their expectations of the Brave Warriors, and other athletes, in accordance with the apportioned resources at their disposal.

At present, Namibia cannot compete against most nations in Africa. Occasionally, a shock or fluke positive result against a reputable sporting force, like the 1-1 draw against Nigeria in a World Cup qualifier last year, will flare up.

However, such occurrences will be sporadic and should be treasured for their remarkableness.

Namibia were, by their standards, outstanding at home and for the opening 40 minutes in Pointe-Noire, but they eventually ran out of steam as they could not sustain a level of performance they are not accustomed to.

Football at the domestic level is played in fits and starts, whereas international football is played at a consistently high tempo coupled with shrewd discipline, aspects of the game which our players are not familiar with.

If Namibian football is to prosper, our only hope is to invest heavily into grassroots structures.

None of the top four clubs in the country – Black Africa, African Stars, Tigers and Orlando Pirates, have youth structures. They mostly poach the better players from the ‘smaller clubs’ or recruit a below-average mercenary foreigner.

Namibia has no reputable football academies or intermediary structures for the development of players.

Instead, Premier League teams scour school teams for promising players, who are then assimilated into their first teams too early, thereby robbing them and the league of valuable experience.

We create a scenario for a young player where it’s ‘sink or swim’. Some, who have above average ability or steely determination, will swim but the vast majority vanish into the abyss.

The country requires competitive leagues for all available youth football age groups, to which every club in the top three divisions must subscribe.

However, a substantial and steady financial injection is required for the above proposal to happen, and that leads us back to where we are at the moment.

Until government and the corporates stop treating sport as nothing more than a recreational activity listed under their petty cash expenditures, Namibians should keep their counsel on ‘underachieving’ athletes.

It is not the athlete’s or coach’s fault. They too are victims of the system.

Source : The Namibian