TRUSTCO Group International yesterday signed a sponsorship agreement to the value of N$1,5 million with the Namibian Squash Association to be used over three years towards squash development.
Quinton van Rooyen, the managing director of Trustco Group Holdings Limited, underscored the importance of investing in sport in Namibia as a way to elevate the standard of athletes to world class.
"Gone are the days when sport was a pastime or a hobby. Today sport is big business and we must take the responsibility to pull our young people up to the level where they must stake a claim to fame on the international sporting arena," he said.
Van Rooyen said it was not always easy to hand out sport sponsorships, especially when weighed up against other needs like salary increases or higher dividends, but that the Namibian Squash Association had been a trustworthy partner over the years. "All businesses are affected by economic cycles, but squash has defied that with sustained growth over the past 10 years worldwide as well as in Namibia, where other sport codes have declined.
This is because of sustained financial support, while the administrators involved are making an effort to further the interests of squash," he said.
Trustco has been sponsoring squash for the past decade and over that period squash in Namibia has made great strides.
In 2011 Namibia participated at the Men's World Squash Championships for the first time where they beat Bermuda to finish 31st overall.
Last year Namibia's senior women's team participated at the World Team Championships for the first time in Nimes, France, where they came 25th overall.
Last year Namibia also competed at the All-Africa Squash Championships in Zimbabwe where the junior team came seventh, while Namibia's senior men and women's teams both came second at the 2012 South African Country Districts tournament.
The development of squash in Namibia received a further boost with the announcement that Namibia will host the All-Africa Squash Championships for the first time ever at junior as well as senior level.
The Senior Championships will be held at the Wanderers courts in Windhoek from February 19 to 23, while the Junior Championships will be held at the same venue from March 28 to April 1.
Seven countries have entered the Senior Championships namely Botswana, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
The chairperson of the NSA, Nelson Herunga, thanked Trustco for the sponsorship, saying that the sport had grown tremendously over the past few years.
"Before Trustco got involved in squash, squash in Namibia was just a social game enjoyed by a select few, but now a few years later it's a serious game, judging by the magnitude of events that we are involved in," he said.
Herunga added that the development of the game at junior level was of paramount importance for the NSA.
"We are currently busy setting up a school league for the juniors as part of our development programme. Every year we have a number of juniors that participate at the South African Schools Country Districts, where our juniors get the chance to compete with some of the best juniors in the SADC region, and as a result, some of our juniors have developed into really good players," he said.
Regarding next week's Senior All-Africa Championships, Herunga said it was a major step in the right direction.
"Namibia will be hosting seven different squash powerhouses in Africa with more than 70 players participating. To host events of this magnitude is a major step in the right direction and it shows that we are growing the sport to a different level. Namibians will be able to watch major squash stars in Namibia and in so doing will spark interest in young and old to take up the game of squash," he said.