Namibia's lukewarm performance at the ongoing 2019 Copa Coca-Cola Africa Cup in Thika, Kenya yesterday continued unabated, with the boys from the Land of the Brave falling victim to a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of southern African neighbours Zimbabwe.
Namibia on Monday lost her two opening matches against Uganda, going down 11-2 in the first clash, followed by a 4-0 defeat again against the east Africans. Despite suffering the two consecutive defeats against Uganda, the Namibians still progressed to the quarterfinals of the competition on the ticket of Ethiopia, who failed to pitch up at the tournament.
With Ethiopia failing to show up at the youth football tournament, it left Namibia and Uganda as the only two contenders in Group C, and organisers resolved both Namibia and Uganda automatically progress to the quarterfinals but will have to play each other twice to plug the void left by Ethiopia.
In yesterday's quarterfinals match, a wounded Namibian side faced regional neighbours Zimbabwe in an exciting encounter, which saw the two countries' youngsters going toe-to-toe as they matched each other in many aspects of the game.
But it was the Zimbabwean side that proved to be more clinical in front of goal and more coordinated in the middle of the park. The Zimbabwean youngsters, who were more determined and appeared the side that wanted it the most, went on to beat Namibia 4-1 to progress to the semi-finals of the continental youth football tournament.
In yesterday's defeat, the Namibian defence was once again found wanted by the opponents striking force, while at the other end of the pitch, enough goal scoring opportunities were not created, which eventually led to Zimbabwe claiming the lion's share of the match's proceedings and subsequently a deserved 4-1 over Namibia.
In a post-match interview with New Era Sport at the M-PESA Foundation Academy stadium in Thika, Namibia's head coach Rodney Doeseb admitted it was not an easy defeat to digest but said the bigger picture looked very bright, as his players got an opportunity to grow and learn at a bigger stage.
A hopeful Doeseb said going forward, Namibia will come well prepared and highly matured because the team have learnt many valuable lessons from the competition during the last few days in Thika.
"I think we played much better today (yesterday), unlike in the matches against Uganda. I also saw enormous improvements from the boys and that can only give us hope going forward. We created a lot of chances and, unfortunately, we ended up losing concentration, especially in the second half; that is when Zimbabwe punished us. But this was a great platform for the boys to learn and to have an idea of what to expect at this tournament in the future. It was a good learning opportunity for all of us," said an optimistic Doeseb.
On the developmental side of the competition, Doeseb said: "It is a really great development project. It is aimed at developing these players for the future. It is not much about winning but about learning and growing - and that is what is most important here."
The Copa Coca-Cola Cup is the premier worldwide grassroots football tournament that unlocks the dreams and possibilities of global football stars. It also aims to inspire young footballers to achieve their dreams through a renowned and respected football tournament in various countries globally, which continues to give voice to the faces who nurture the budding talents of young football heroes, as it showcases Africa's pride and belief in upcoming youngsters.
In Africa, the Copa Coca-Cola Cup is played in 22 countries, including Namibia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Botswana, Rwanda, Congo, Swaziland, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mauritius and Burundi.
Outside the continent, the tourney is also played in the Americas, Europe and Asia. The tournament originated in Zimbabwe in 1989, with the aim of seeking to support the development of potential grassroots talent and promote active, healthy lifestyles among young people.