Article: Daniel Kenu
THE name Namibia does not ring a bell among the elite of African football, but one would be right in easily writing them off at such a big tournament as the Africa Nations Cup.
Namibia Head coach, Arie Schans, admits it will be difficult for the Brave Warriors to progress past the group phase of the three-week competition which kicks off at the Ohene Djan Stadium on Sunday.
His fear was confirmed after the January 5, 2008 0-3 loss to defending champions, the Pharaohs of Egypt, in a friendly match.
The 56-year-old Schans replaced Ben Bamfuchile last year. Bamfuchile died late last December from undisclosed illness.
The Brave Warriors are making their second appearance among African football’s big boys after an unimpressive maiden showing in Burkina Faso in 1998.
But it is understandable for a country which has been active in continental football for just 15 years. The Burkina Faso venture was nothing to write home about. The Warriors managed face-saving draws in their group matches and although they scored seven, they conceded 11 goals before leaving the Fourth August Stadium in Ouagadougou.
In spite of that poor performance, though, the under two million Namibians were happy to have joined the elite division. However, their hopes of using Zambian trainer, Bamfuchile, to change their story in Ghana were dashed following his death.
The Zambian resigned just two months to the start of the competition over poor working conditions. He had complained about not having an official working car and had to join taxis to his office. But he was reported to have promised fans to be back after 10 days for a press conference to state whether he was rescinding his decision or not. But that was not to be.
In his place, the Namibia Football Association appointed Dutchman Schans, a member of the coaching team of Chinese Super League club Changchun Yatai, to take over the team.
In spite of the changes, the Southern African country is coming to Ghana with the hope of improving on the maiden performance. Indeed, the way they qualified for Ghana 2008 attest to what they could do in Group A, which also comprises Ghana, Guinea and Morocco, for the January 20 to February 10 competition.
After surprising every one to qualify for Burkina, Namibia again shocked the connoisseurs to book a ticket for Ghana, ahead of DR Congo, Libya and Ethiopia. On paper, though, they appear to be the least favourite to qualify from the group.
Apart from Ghana, whom they have not met at any level, Namibia have never won a single game against either Guinea or Morocco. Their best against these two sides have been 0-0 drawn games on July 16, 1995 and June 17, 2000, respectively. Namibia won just a match at home on their way to Ghana, but recorded an important win in Ethiopia in their last game to get a point richer (10 points) than DR Congo.
Their players may not be in the same category as Michael Essien, Stephen Appiah and the like, but among their virtually unknown players, Razundura Tjikuzu stands tall among his peers.
However, he had no part in the qualifiers after a brawl with the coach, he is expected to bounce back.
Their squad is also being strengthened with the return of Bundesliga player Collin Benjamin who has rejoined the team after suffering from a knee injury.
Benjamin, on whose thin shoulders the team’s hopes and aspiration hang, has gone through the mill right from his amateur days in Germany before joining Hamburg.
The talented player has been plagued with knee injuries which became severer during the qualifiers and he had to undergo an operation.
The 29-year-old is expected to be the linchpin around which the entire team will revolve in the midfield.
He started his career at Civic in Windhoek, before moving to Germany and later joining Hamburg in January 2001.