14 November 2017

Namibia: Participation At U20 Cosafa Cup in Doubt

Namibia's u20 football team's participation in the 2017 Cosafa Cup which starts in Zambia in three weeks' time, is in doubt due to a lack of funds.

National u20 coach Gerald Guther on Monday said he had not heard from the NFA regarding Namibia's participation since the draw was made last Thursday, while there was too little time left to prepare his team adequately for the competition.

"The NFA contacted me before the draw was made, saying I should prepare myself and get a squad ready, but they said they were still negotiating with the government for funds. But since then I haven't heard anything and at this stage I don't think it will happen anymore," he said.

NFA secretary general Barry Rukoro on Monday said they were still awaiting a reply from the Ministry of Sport regarding their request for financial assistance.

"It's a sad state of affairs and it all depends if we find the money or not. We requested funds from the Directorate of Sport three months ago, but have not heard from them and I'm now in fact waiting to see the Director of Sport Shivute Katamba," he said.

Guther said they need at least two months of preparation time, while their last competitive match was more than a year ago, when they drew 0-0 against South Africa u20 at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in June 2016. They also did not compete in the 2016 u20 Cosafa Cup due to a lack of funds.

"We need at least six to eight weeks to get them fit so it will be a huge task to get a team ready at this stage. Quite a few of the players are with Premier League clubs, but they are mostly on the bench and are not playing too often," he said.

Rukoro, however, said there was still enough time to prepare.

"The lack of time is not an issue. Most of the players are playing in the Premier League or the second division so they should be fit," he said.

The draw for the 2017 u20 Cosafa Cup was made last Thursday, with Namibia being drawn in a tough Group C along with Angola, Zimbabwe and Lesotho.

Group A consists of the defending champions Zambia, Swaziland, Malawi and the east African guest nation Uganda, while Group B, which has been dubbed the 'Group of Death' consists of last year's runners-up South Africa, Mozambique, Mauritius and north African guests, Egypt.

The tournament starts on 6 December at the Arthur Davies Stadium in Kitwe, with Namibia due to play Angola on the opening day.

The group stages continue till 12 December, before the semifinals take place two days later. The three group winners and the best placed runner-up will qualify for the semifinals.

The final and the bronze medal match will be held on 16 December at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.

Guther said he would have to call up several new players to his squad since about half are overage now.

"I'd say about half of the players are overage now. Most of the new players would come from the national u17 squad, but we also scouted for new players at the Namibia Newspaper Cup competition.

According to Guther, Namibia received a good draw.

"We beat Lesotho at last year's u20 Afcon qualifiers, while Angola are a bit unpredictable but their junior teams are not normally as well prepared as their senior teams. Zimbabwe however are always strong, they have a big pool of players and are normally well prepared," he said.

Guther said that the u20 squad's inactivity was a setback for Namibian football that would also affect the senior team in future.

"Ricardo Mannetti has formed a great squad that is playing good football, but he will have a problem once he needs to start calling up the u20 national players because of their lack of international experience. I have tried to base my style on his so that they can adapt easier and fall into the national system, but if they are not playing regularly it will be difficult for them to do so," he said.

The general secretary of Cosafa, Sue Destombes on Monday said that they had not been informed of Namibia's withdrawal yet.

"Cosafa has not been informed of any impending withdrawal by Namibia from the Cosafa u20 and therefore we carry on as is until advised otherwise. It would be very unfortunate were Namibia to withdraw at this late stage as it is now too late to invite a replacement country," she said.

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