Namibia: Hockey Qualifier Uncertain Amid Lockdown Extension

14 September 2020

THE extension of stage 3 of Namibia's state of emergency has given Namibian sport a bit of breathing space, but the chances of Namibia's national hockey teams competing in South Africa in less than two weeks appear to be receding by the day.

President Hage Geingob on Thursday announced an extension of stage 3 by five days from Sunday until midnight on Thursday, 17 September.

He retained the ban on contact sport, but relaxed the restriction of 10 people allowed at public gatherings to a maximum of 50, opening the way for non-contact sport to resume.

Freddy Mwiya, chief administrator of the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC), on Saturday concurred.

"Non-contact sport like tennis and cricket will be able to resume, and tennis already contacted me about an event they want to host at Olympia next weekend. But we are not encouraging the presence of spectators at sporting events," he said.

Johan Muller, chief executive officer of Cricket Namibia, also confirmed that schools cricket will get underway this week, while a youth tournament and a CCD Sixes tournament have been planned for Windhoek this coming weekend.

Contact sport, however, is still banned, while Namibia's hopes of competing at the Indoor Africa Cup in South Africa from 25 to 27 September seem quite remote at this stage.

Mwiya said they will make decisions on events later this week.

"Regarding hockey we will have to wait till Wednesday when they announce the next stage, but I'm also planning to write to the deputy minister of sport about their case so that she can provide new directions," he said.

He, however, remained doubtful that the national teams would be allowed to travel.

"Namibians are free to travel now, but I don't think the government has pronounced itself on international sport. Hockey is a contact sport and they can't even train properly, so I can't see how they could compete. But it will be better for us to meet with the Namibia Hockey Union after Wednesday's announcement," he said.

The president of the Namibia Hockey Union, Marc Nel, was also doubtful of their chances.

"We are in contact with the NSC on a weekly basis, and now we are waiting for directions from the NSC and the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service, but I don't think they will make any exceptions for hockey," he said on Saturday.

Nel, however, said it looked more and more likely that the World Cup scheduled to take place in Liège, Belgium, in February next year may be postponed altogether.

"This morning I received an email from the Africa Hockey Federation in which they informed all affiliates of the current situation. The pan-American qualifiers must also still be held, while the travel arrangements of those who have qualified remain difficult, so it's looking increasingly unlikely that the World Cup will take place next year. Belgium and the FIH (international hockey federation) will hold a meeting on Wednesday to decide whether to postpone the World Cup to 2022," he said.

"Any logical-thinking person will go with that - the Olympic Games and other sporting events have also been postponed - so I foresee that it will be shifted and rescheduled, which makes more sense," Nel said.

"Even if we progress to stage 4, there is still the South African situation to consider, while we can't have the quarantining of our teams either, so hopefully sanity will prevail and the World Cup will be postponed," he said.

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