Namibia: Cup Action Hits the Coast

KUISEBMOND Stadium in Walvis Bay will be the centre of attraction on Saturday when the remaining four teams in the Standard Bank Top 8 Cup battle it out for a place in the final and the winner's lucrative prize of N$500 000.

African Stars play Tura Magic at 16h00 to be followed by another mouthwatering encounter between Black Africa and Tigers at 19h00.

The semifinals will be conducted over two legs, with the return leg set for the Sam Nujoma Stadium on 30 March.

Black Africa are on a roll in the Namibia Premier League and lead the log by seven points at the halfway stage, but they haven't won a cup for quite a while and are determined to address that.

"We haven't won the cup for a long time and we are trying to bring back the glory days. We are well prepared to go to our first final and the boys are ready," their coach Paulus Shipanga said.

He said he respected Tigers and would not underestimate them.

"Tigers have a very strong team and they are doing well under Oubaas Mokwena and we definitely won't underestimate them," he said.

"They have some talented players and their captain Absalom Iimbondi can make miracles any time," he added.

Tigers have been selected as the 'home team' and Shipanga said they will be aiming for an away goal or two.

"It's our away game, so we will be a bit cautious, but hopefully we can get an away goal or two."

According to Shipanga, midfielder Immanuel Heita and wing back Avihe Mbai are unavailable due to injury, but key midfielder Wesley Katjiteo is back from injury.

Otherwise they have a full squad and with players who are currently in top form like Dynamo Fredericks, McCartney Naweseb and Wendell Rudath in their midst, they will fancy their chances.

Tigers, though, have a strong team, with players like Iimbondi, Muna Katupose, Mapenzi Muwanei, Ferdinand Karongee and their versatile defensive midfielder George Nyirenda from Malawi, and their caretaker coach Oubaas Mokwena was in confident mood.

"All our players are back from injuries and for the first time I have a full squad to select from, so now at least I'll have a proper Plan B if the situation arises.

"I know Black Africa's strengths, but we are just focussing on ourselves and preparing the team to be 100 percent ready to play to our strengths and abilities," he said.

Mokwena said the teams weighed up evenly and they believed in themselves.

"It only takes four games to win the cup and we only have one chance so we must make use of it and go for the kill. We are not playing Manchester United, we are playing Black Africa and I know them. Pound for pound we can match them and it will only take one or two goals to finish them off."

"I just want to thank Standard Bank for their sponsorship - we are thankful because without the sponsors there will be no football," he added.

In the early game African Stars should start as the favourites. They are second on the log, they have quality and depth, and have the best cup record over the past decade, having won the NFA Cup three times and the Debmarine Cup last year.

Tura Magic caretaker coach Fortune Eichab was, however, not overawed and said they aimed to go all the way.

"We cannot compete in the league, because we don't have the financial muscle of the top teams, but we have a great chance in the cup and we are aiming to go all the way and win it," he said.

"We are very excited and looking forward to the game. For us as one of the smaller teams in the league it's an honour to play African Stars in the semifinals," he added.

He said they have a full squad to select from, with their captain Osvaldo Xamseb and Larry Horaeb having returned from injury, while they were looking forward to playing in Walvis Bay.

"It's an opportunity for us to play for our supporters over there. We will leave early tomorrow to acclimatise and be ready," he added.

African Stars coach Bobby Samaria was not available for comment.

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