Excitement is building for Namibia’s debut at the Afcon finals in Korhogo this afternoon when they take on Tunisia in their opening match in Group E at 19h00 Namibian time today.
At yesterday’s pre-match press conference Brave Warriors coach Collin Benjamin and vice captain Ananias Gebhardt, handled a horde of photographers and journalists with calm composure, but with steely determination to make their country proud.
“Tunisia has got a really good team, they have very good players, offensively, one-on-one on the wings they are fast and they are one of the favourites to win this cup,” Benjamin said.
“But we are going to give it our best shot, we are looking forward to this game, and we can’t wait for tomorrow. Namibians are hungry, Namibians are angry, Namibians want to create history and Namibians want to make their country proud. We are the underdogs, but we are going to give it our best shot. The game of football nowadays has evolved and with good preparation and a good mindset, anything is possible. Like I said, if Tunisia are the favourites, it’s not going to be easy, but we are going to give it our all,” he added.
Benjamin said that the players were determined to make history.
“We know that Tunisia are a good ball-playing team, they play from the back, they have good technical players, but we also have a good team. Half of the team has been to Afcon before, but for some of them it’s probably their last opportunity, so they want to create some kind of history, they want to give it their best shot and they are all ready and prepared for that,” he said.
With the tournament already having produced a few upsets with Mozambique and Equatorial Guinea holding Egypt and Nigeria to draws respectively, while Cape Verde stunned Ghana with a 2-1 victory, Gebhardt said that there are no more underdogs in football anymore.
“If you look at the Egypt game, they got a penalty in the last minute so anything can happen. When it comes to the socalled underdogs, if you just look at recent results, you will see that there are no more underdogs in football anymore. Any team that has prepared very well can shock any of the so-called bigger teams, but at the same time we know we are facing a team that has been to multiple world cups, they are an African giant, so we are not taking it lightly. We’ve prepared very well, so we will give it a go and try by all means necessary to execute everything that we’ve been working on,” he added.
Tunisia are one of the powerhouses of African football, having appeared at six Fifa World Cups and multiple Afcon finals, while they won the 2004 finals which they hosted.
They are currently ranked third in Africa and 28th in the world, while Namibia are 27th in Africa and 115th in the world.
On Sunday evening Namibia Football Association president Robert Shimooshili and members of his executive committee visited the Brave Warriors at their training camp where they were welcomed by Benjamin and introduced to his support staff.
Shimooshili addressed the players, saying that they had the nation’s support.
“You came here with one vision – to make Namibia happy and to make them proud, the same way you made the country proud by qualifying for Afcon. Namibia has now qualified for the Afcon finals for the fourth the time … so I only want to encourage and motivate you and tell you that we are all behind you,” he said.
“We are here with the government representative Irvine Ndjavera, and the ministry has confirmed and made a commitment to renovate and upgrade the Independence Stadium so that our home matches can be played in the country – they assured us that it will be done this year,” he added.
Shimooshili called on the players to be fully focussed on the task ahead, while he also said that they would resolve any outstanding financial issues surrounding the players’ qualifying bonusses and appearance fees.
“We don’t want to disappoint our boys, equally, we don’t want you to think that there’s nobody who cares about you. If there are any challenges that you may have, captain (Peter Shalulile), I give you the right to talk to me. Especially the money issue, we heard about it, but we don’t want that to be an issue,” he said.
“When we come to a foreign country like this one, on a foreign assignment, we sort that one out. You can call me when you are in South Africa, and then we deal with it and we finish it,” he added.
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