20 December 2012

Namibia: The Good and Bad in Namibian Sports

Windhoek — Despite the many challenges facing Namibian sports, ranging from maladministration to financial constraints, among other wrangles currently hampering progress within our sporting fraternity, sports continue to present us with an unparalleled opportunity to foster peaceful co-existence and understanding and to create bonds of friendship among our diverse people and their cultures.

As the year 2012 draws to a close, New Era Sports would like to take our readers through the highs and lows of some of our athletes, locally and internationally, in an effort to reflect on the overall achievements of our national teams while participating beyond our borders.

In my personal view, it's always better to concentrate on the good rather than the bad, especially when the good eclipses the bad.

There is no better place to start than with the inspiring achievements of our golden girl, Johanna Benson, who emerged head and shoulders above all, despite all the odds stacked against her at the 2012 London Paralympis. She courageously delivered some sterling performances to bring home Namibia's first ever gold and silver medals from the Paralympic Games.

Just as many sports lovers thought the good old days of local athletics had become a mere memory as soon as father time caught up with the iconic Frank Fredericks, Johanna came and inspired a nation and in the process, refocussed our attention on disability sports and our own shortcomings and biases against people living with disabilities.

As we all know Benson went on to scoop top awards at the prestigious MTC NSC Namibia Annual Sports Awards - winning the Disabled Sport Woman of the Year award and the more prestigious Top Achiever of the Year award, among others. Johanna's achievement's did not just end in London, a few days ago she again became Namibia's first ever athlete to be nominated for the Laureus International World Sports Awards. The awards will be held in Brazil early next year. She was nominated in the category World Disabled Sportsperson of the Year.

In other notable achievements, our national U-19 rugby team proved their mettle against the best and secured a place in the 2013 Junior World Rugby Championships, slated for Chile, after they were crowned Africa's U-19 champions in Zimbabwe, following some near faultless performances. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Welwitschias, who stumbled in Madagascar and that somehow affected their morale ahead of the 2015 World Cup qualifiers. But there is still hope for Namibia to qualify for the 2015 World Cup and that means we need to participate in Senegal next year June, where we will contest against hosts Senegal, Tunisia and Botswana. Namibia must win over there if they are to secure themselves a place at the World Cup.

Long-distance runner Helalia Johannes swept her competitors aside to claim this year's Sportswoman of the Year Award. The gap-toothed queen of long distance running finished 12th at the 2012 London Olympics and also went on to win the grueling Dublin Marathon, while she finished 3rd in the Vienna International Marathon, among other achievements.

The Namibian sports fraternity must in all honesty doff their hats for boxing promoter, Nestor 'Sunshine' Tobias. Namibia has taken a leading role on the African continent in the area of producing world-class boxers and the recent exploits of Paulus 'The Hitman' Moses, Paulus 'The Rock' Ambunda, Prince Naidjala, Wilberforce Shihepo, Tyson Uushona, and Vikapita Meroro, bear testimony to that.

Following years of financial constraints and self-imposed exile from international participation, the Namibian netball team has finally come out of its shell and seems to be on the right track to reclaim their lost glory after finishing 3rd overall at the recently concluded 6-Nations Netball Tourney in Singapore. Their captain and lethal goal-shooter Toetsie Kambatuku was a pillar of strength and almost single-handedly steered the Desert Jewels to victory.

Another unheralded hero of Namibian sports is professional cyclist Dan Craven, who has been recording excellent times on the international circuit.

Meanwhile, as crowds continue to throng high-profile football matches in the domestic league, credit must go to both African Stars and Black Africa for producing top-class football during the course of the the MTC Premiership 2012/2013 campaign, while the Namibian Football Association (NFA) and coach, Bernard Kaanjuka, also deserve a pat on the back for assembling a future Brave Warriors team. We have had the chance of watching young talents led by the likes of Petrus Shitembi, Sadney Uri-Khob, Lover Kamuhanga, Willy Stephanus, Henry Somseb and Neville Tjiueza, to mention but a few.

However, on a more negative note, it's quite disturbing to note that the country's sports governing body, the National Sports Commission (NSC) has in recent times come under a barrage of criticism in some quarters following its apparent reluctance to pronounce itself on damaging allegations of racial prejudice in Namibian cricket. Cricket Namibia stands accused of having dispatched a national Under-19 team to the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup finals in Australia early this year without the approval of the national umbrella body after cricket bosses failed to meet certain requirements.

Eventually, it was left to the main sponsor, MTC, to request the Namibian Cricket Board (NCB) to jack up its lousy transformation act or face the consequences of losing its financial backing. The seemingly unending off-the-field squabbles in local sports must be put to bed forever as these quarrels have the potential to overshadow the good progress made on the field of play. We wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

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