Windhoek — It's signed, sealed and delivered, following months of uncertainty over the future of the oldest knockout cup competition, the Namibian Football Association (NFA) Cup.
Now it is confirmed and the country's most-sought-after football bonanza returns after a year's absence. A total of 194 football teams from all corners of the country will be vying for supremacy when the revamped NFA Cup, to be known as the Bidvest Namibia Cup gets underway in earnest with the opening elimination rounds in various regions starting this weekend already.
Bidvest Namibia are the new sponsors and the company has undertaken to create a platform where all football playing clubs in Namibia will compete against each other in the prestigious knockout tournament. The marathon tourney features all the 12 MTC Premier League teams, three teams from the vast Northern Stream Division One, two representatives from their Southern Stream counterparts and the 13 regional winners after the elimination rounds.
Both United Stars and Hotspurs, relegated from the elite league last term have been thrown another lifeline with automatic qualification into the last 32 of the competition. The competition replaces the now defunct NFA Leo Cup after the telecommunications company abandoned ship under mysterious circumstances last year. The total sponsorship is estimated to be in the region of N$7 million over three years to be escalated by the inflation rate.
This year's champions are guaranteed half-a-million-dollars, a distant N$100 000 less than what Eleven Arrows took home when they clinched the final edition of the NFA Leo Cup on home soil in 2011. The runners-up will receive a consolation prize of N$200 000, while the losing semi-finalists will each walk away with N$100 000.
In his keynote address read in absentia by the Deputy Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture Julieta Kavetuna, Prime Minister Hage Geingob emphasized the important role that sports play to unite nations. "The Bidvest Cup adds another dimension to our sports heritage as it unites Namibian clubs competing in the Premier League, at regional level, including the lower divisions.
"I'm looking forward to the emergence of increased competition that gives birth to new heroes and hope we will have a lot of great moments for us to cherish during the upcoming Bidvest Cup." The competition proper starts on the 9th of next month with the final slated for the 1st of June 2013. Participating teams will only receive sponsored gear from the semi-finals onwards.
With the exception of the tie between traditional rivals Orlando Pirates and Black Africa - all the big guns avoided each other when the draw for the Bidvest Namibia Cup was conducted during a posh launch ceremony at a local hotel in Windhoek yesterday.
The fixtures for the last 32 are as follows:
Tigers vs Northern Stream 3
Omusati Region vs Erongo Region
FNB Orlando Pirates vs Black Africa
Oshikoto Region vs Ohangwena Region
United Stars vs Civics
Omaheke Region vs Northern Stream 1
Hotspurs vs Tura Magic
Ramblers vs Kunene Region
Khomas Region vs Northern Stream 2
Mighty Gunners vs Oshana Region
Karas Region vs Southern Stream 2
Otjozondjupa Region vs Rundu Chiefs
Cymot SKW vs Southern Stream 1
Eleven Arrows vs Caprivi Region
Hardap Region vs Blue Waters
African Stars vs Kavango Region