Poised to surprise

17 June 2019 | Sports

The past few months have been hectic but rewarding period for Namibian football.

The news that Namibia qualified for the flagship Afcon tournament - the jewel in the African football crown - was welcomed by the whole country at a time when everyone is desperate for good news.

Despite being drawn in arguably the most intriguing Group D, Namibia surely has lots to be proud of and plenty to look forward to in a couple of days when the team eventually steps onto the field to cross swords with the likes of African football giants Morocco, Ivory Coast and our neighbours South Africa.

These will not be easy matches for Namibia as we all know the capability and clinical finishing the Moroccans bring to the field. Their squad comprises largely of European-based players and they know the taste of winning, as they have won the tournament in 1976 and will be hoping to improve on their 2017 campaign, where they were bundled out at the quarterfinal stage.

The Ivorians also have a star-studded 23-man squad, with the likes of Lille forward Nicolas Pepe and Wilfried Zaha. The Elephants will surely come with experience, having won the tournament twice in 1992 and 2015.

Also in the same group is South Africa who has tasted victory in 1996, lifting the trophy on home soil.

All of these countries have World Cup experience. Namibia is nowhere close to the feats of their opponents.

They are the only country in this group who still need to touch Afcon silverware or qualify for the World Cup. Calling them underdogs is truly befitting, because only a crazy person will bet their money on the Brave Warriors at this moment in time.

But that's okay, because they are not going out to impress anyone or to score brownie points. All I know is that the Warriors too have their own stars to depend on. These players know what is at stake.

Rome was not built in a day. We don't have serial Liverpool scorer Mohamed Salah, but we have Ratanda Mbazuvara, Loydt Kazapua, Max Mbaeva, Ryan Nyambe, Larry Horaeb, Denzil Haoseb, Ivan Kamberipa, Charles Hambira, Riaan Hanamub, Ananias Gebhardt, Absalom Iimbondi, Willy Stephanus, Petrus Shitembi, Ronald Ketjijere, Dynamo Fredericks, Marcel Papama, Manfred Starke, Deon Hotto, Itamunua Keimuine, Benson Shilongo, Peter Shalulile, Joslyn Kamatuka and Issaskar Gurirab, and that is good enough for us.

They have given the nation a glimpse of what they can do by winning a closed-door friendly against Ghana some days back. This is a boost in confidence for the underdogs.

The Black Mambas, as the Ghanaians are known, are not easy to beat. They have been top-quality competitors for years. Was it just pure luck on Namibia's part to win, or is the team really showing signs of competitiveness, you might ask?

All of this remains to be seen. However, at the moment the squad looks sound. We have to thank Ricardo Mannetti and the technical team for doing tremendous work to get the squad where it is now.

As fans I urge you not to live in a bubble, but to face the facts head-on. Do not expect miracles. But trust that the ball is round and surely upsets will be caused. The team has done enough to get to Afcon. Now they need a little push in the form of support, in order to offer the best and show character.

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