Namibia: Mannetti Lays Foundation of Hope

RICARDO Mannetti is a proud example that "you don't have to be an academic to be somebody in life".

To that end, his newly launched Ricardo Mannetti Foundation will assist aspiring youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds realise their dreams.

These dreamy youngsters may or may not be academically gifted. Mannetti, a college drop-out, considers himself part of the latter category.

He has gone from being the youngest Namibian to be capped at senior national level as a bright eyed 16-year-old, to becoming the country's most successful coach.

"I'm not an academic. We are not all academics. I'm a drop-out, but look at where I am today," said Mannetti, a man who admits to have surpassed his wildest expectations. "I'm not saying school is not important. Don't get me wrong. I'm a strong advocate of education. What I'm saying is that just because someone is not academic does not mean it's the end of the world for them."

He was a central part of the fabled Brave Warriors "Class of 98", Namibia's first generation to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations.

He has since surpassed that accolade after winning the Cosafa Cup in 2015, and then leading the Brave Warriors to a 2018 African Nations Championships quarter-final finish.

Namibia won its first two matches at a continental competition at the tournament in Morocco, who eliminated the Warriors en route to claiming the title.

Namibia also won the Cosafa Cup plate section under Mannetti's watch two years ago. However, qualifying for this year's Afcon finals in Egypt ranks as his biggest achievement to date.

"The main objective is to give hope to the underprivileged children, unlocking their talents from football to education and life skills. We will run various projects, which will be made public in due course, like clinics, which will centre around these [aforementioned] topics. And where possible, we will provide scholarships to assist with their educational and sporting needs," Mannetti explained.

The foundation was born out of a burning desire to inspire and see the destitute youth prosper, like he has done. The country has a shortage of role models because very few of the success stories plough back into the community, Mannetti stressed.

"I'm standing here today as a coach and as a teacher who needs to work with those lost cases. Those children who fail, those children who are gangsters. Most of us come from such backgrounds, and were fortunate that someone helped us to get where we are today," he continued.

"There is hope. You who are sitting here and who have made it, it's up to you to go back to your communities and pull out the next doctor, the next engineer or Mannetti. These children need you," he implored.

In welcoming the initiative, deputy sports minister Agnes Tjongarero said the foundation's mission to help build a 'Better Namibia Through Sport and Education' complements the government's efforts.

"This is actually long-overdue. It is a known factor that many of our children roam the streets after school and during weekends. Many cannot afford to go to private academies, some don't even know the existence of such academies," Tjongarero said during Friday's launch, where several institutions including Namibia Wildlife Resorts and PricewaterhouseCoopers, as well as individuals pledged long-term support for the foundation.

"The vision of the foundation is to empower Namibian youth emotionally, physically, academically and socially through sports.

"Namibia does not have community sports. Crime is high. There is minimal involvement of all sectors in the holistic development of our children. I wish to have such foundations in all 14 regions," she continued.

"If we had more such initiatives, we could have had more champions. It's not for nothing that we are known as the Land of the Brave. We are obliged to help these children".

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