8 November 2018

Namibia: 'Focused' Warriors Shun Football Politics

The Brave Warriors have constructed a collective mental cocoon to safeguard their focus from the ongoing football feud as they wind down a 2019 African Cup of Nations qualification campaign that may yet end with a silver lining for the country.

Head coach Ricardo Mannetti on Wednesday said his charges, while not oblivious to the toxic climate, were too preoccupied with making the nation proud as opposed to dwelling on the shenanigans of bickering football bosses.

"We are focused on our mission. We are not politicians. Football is played with a soccer ball on the field, and not in a boardroom," Mannetti said in response to suggestions that the NFA's much-publicised conflict between its head Frans Mbidi and secretary general Barry Rukoro would derail the Brave Warriors' bid to qualify for Cameroon 2019.

"Like I previously said, we are keeping our eyes on the ball. I want us to hashtag this. We are not distracted from what happens in the boardroom. This is not a new situation of the climate at the association," he continued.

"The league stopped for 18 months [between 2016 and 2018]. We kept our eyes on the ball, and qualified [for the 2018 African Nations Championships].

"Let us as fans, as players, the technical team, sponsors, the government and the press keep our eyes on the ball. If we do that, we will achieve [qualification]."

Indeed, the Brave Warriors need a minimum three points from their remaining two matches against Guinea-Bissau at home next week and Zambia away next March, coupled with results going their way to realise their ambition of being among the top two teams in Group K, and qualify for a third Afcon tournament.

"This game will definitely be the most important game for us, given the situation that should the countries end on the same number of points; we are currently on seven together with Guinea-Bissau. Caf [Confederation of African Football] will use head-to-head and not goal-difference [to determine who qualifies]," Mannetti explained.

"So, it's important for us to make sure that we beat Guinea-Bissau so that we have an edge over them should it come to head-to-head in the last game. We already have an edge over Mozambique. Zambia will be the last one to deal with.

He made only two notable changes when naming a 26-man camping squad, with experienced centre-back Chris Katjiukua ending a two-year exile following a fall-out with the technical team. Having struck a ceasefire with Mannetti, Katjiukua is expected to fill the void left by Denzil Haoseb, who was red-carded in the 1-0 home win over Mozambique last month.

Also returning to the side is midfield maestro Immanuel Heita, who has recovered from injury.

In the squad are: Goalkeepers - Maximillian Mbaeva (Golden Arrows, South Africa), Virgil Vries (Kaizer Chiefs, SA), Loydt Kazapua (Maccabi FC, SA);

Defenders - Chris Katjiukua (Black Leopards, SA), Larry Horaeb (Tura Magic), Teberius Lombard (Lusaka Dynamos, Zambia), Emilio Martin and Vitapi Ngaruka (both Black Africa), Riaan Hanamub (Jomo Cosmos), Ananias Gebhardt (Baroka, SA);

Midfielders - Immanuel Heita and Dynamo Fredericks (both Black Africa), Petrus Shitembi (unattached), Ronald Ketjijere (African Stars), Wangu Batista Gome (Cape Umoya, SA), Absalom Iimbondi (Tigers), Deon Hotto (Wits, SA), Willy Stephanus (Kanjaani, Finland) and Marcel Papama (Unam);

Strikers - Hendrik Somaeb (FK Zemun, Serbia), Muna Katupose (Unam), Sadney Urikhob (unattached), Benson Shilongo (Smouha, Egypt), Itamunua Keimuine (Dire Wawa, Ethiopia) and Peter Shalulile (Highlands Park, SA). - sheefeni@namibian.com.na


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