Tales of the Legends – Football Supremo With a Vision – John Muinjo

Taking over the reigns from a reputable and globally acclaimed sports administrator in the shape of incumbent Namibian Judge President, Petrus Damaseb, was certainly not going to be an easy ride in the park.

It’s a well-documented secret that Damaseb was the brainchild behind the successful transformation of Namibian football following independence – a feat that convinced the world football governing body (FIFA) to release funding for the establishment of Soccer House and other developmental programmes. Damaseb’s successor, John Muinjo, the country’s longest serving football supremo to date, was part and parcel of the negotiations between the NFA and Fifa in his capacity as vice-president and was well vested to steer the ship into the promised land following in the footsteps of the no-nonsense Warwick graduate.

Muinjo was elected NFA president in 2006 during a heated congress that saw him brush aside his opponent Hendrik Dawid in a hotly contested two horse race under the strict supervision of Fifa strongman Jerome Champagne. A former referee and football administrator, Muinjo, gradually eased himself up the ladder and currently serves in numerous positions within Fifa, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA).

WINDHOEK – Born in Karibib in the Erongo Region 1958 John Muinjo was exposed to football at an early age during his formative years at the St Josephs Secondary School (Döbra) – the unofficial school of excellence, football wise.

He started refereeing football matches in topflight leagues at the fairly young age of 21, while boys his age did the business on the playing field. John doubled up as secretary for the Northern Football League during his formative years in the tough and demanding rigours of football. The soft-spoken bulky football official gradually worked his way up the ranks and was duly rewarded for his efforts when he was elected NFA vice president, deputizing the flamboyant and often controversial Imms Namaseb in 1996. Muinjo retained the seat during the next general election when Petrus Damaseb, became the 4th NFA president unopposed ahead of Bob Kandetu, who failed to garner the required number of votes.

During his tenure as second in command Muinjo oversaw Namibia’s first ever qualification for the African Nations Cup in Burkina Faso in 1998. Soon afterwards, internal bickering led to Namaseb’s ouster by way of a motion of no confidence and he was replaced by Damaseb, whose administrative acumen led to Namibia gaining immediate respect and recognition from Fifa. However, the Warwick graduate had to answer a national call to serve the Namibian nation in another capacity. His appointment as the country’s Chief Justice paved the way for Muinjo and other presidential aspirants to enter the fray to vie for the plum vacant position. Muinjo was subsequently elected NFA president in 2006 and went on to retain the hot seat successfully for four years after brushing aside unwanted attentions from local business mogul Ranga Haikali in the 2010 NFA elective congress.

His first task after talking over the reigns from Damaseb was to find a suitable coach for the ailing Brave Warriors side during the qualification rounds for the 26th edition of the AFCON in Ghana, in 2008. This turned out to be the defining moment for the cool headed Namibian football supremo as he managed to sweet talk well respected former Zambian football coach Ben Bamfuchile into taking over the Warriors coaching reigns.

Against all odds stacked against him, the late Bamfuchile steered the Namibian amateurs to their second appearance at the continental showpiece – precisely a decade after their maiden appearance. However, the likeable Zambian national took an unexpected bow from the game of life and could not reap the fruits of his excellent hard work when the team participated in Ghana in a tough group that included hosts Ghana, Morocco and Guinea.

The Warriors were given a rude awakening in their opening match in Accra, suffering a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Morocco, but somehow dusted themselves off with a splendid come back showing, as they stretched the hosts to the limit before bowing out owing to a lone Michael Essien strike. The Warriors later made amends and exited the tournament with a 1-all draw against Guinea in their final match in Sekondi. Ever since that time Namibian football has taken a nosedive with various coaches coming in and out with minimal success.

However, off the pitch, Namibia has been making serious and commendable inroads in global football, which earned the association recognition and praise from Fifa for its genuine drive to promote and develop women’s football across all age groups. Under Muinjo’s visionary leadership together with his competent team, the NFA has managed to consolidate and to secure solid support and cooperation from government and also managed to strengthen its women’s desk with a skilled staff complement.

A string of notable achievements during his tenure include securing the PUMA and Namibia Breweries Limited (NBL) sponsorships for the Brave Warriors, the construction of the artificial turf at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in katutura, training technical staff and recommending match officials to world football bodies. Muinjo was also instrumental in organizing a Women Football Seminar (2006), organising the COSAFA Under-17 youth tourney (2007), persuading the NPL to take up residence at Soccer House, building the NFA Technical Centre, signing a Memorandum of Agreement with local learning institution Polytechnic of Namibia for football education and also negotiating with SPAR Otjiwarongo for the sponsorship for women’s football.

In 2012, Namibian football received yet another accolade from Fifa for its excellent work towards the development of women’s football and received an award as best African affiliate in the area of implementing Fifa programmes successfully, followed by Morocco and Botswana in that order. He is also credited for bringing Bidvest Namibia and Scorpion Zinc on board as tournament sponsors. Owing largely to his own efforts Namibia will host the CAF African Women Championships in October later this year, while the country will also have a representative team (U-15 girls) at the World Youth Olympics in China this year. Muinjo has supervised the smooth running of high profile football competitions in South Korea (2007), Nigeria (2009) Mexico (2011) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (2013).

He also served on the executive committee of the now defunct Okahandja-based Liverpool Football Club in his early involvement with football and was assistant referee during the final of the inaugural edition of the annual NFA Windhoek Lager Cup between Katutura rivals Black Africa and Orlando Pirates at the Independence Stadium in 1990. BA won on penalties.