Namibia beat Tanzania 6-3 in sensational fashion on Friday night to qualify for the 2024 Afcon Futsal finals in Morocco in April.
Namibia went into the match with a three-goal deficit after losing the first leg 5-2 in Windhoek on 2 February, and not many people gave them a chance to overturn the deficit away in Dar es Salaam.
They, however, rose to the occasion with a great performance, and went on to clinch the tie on the away goals rule, after the aggregate score ended at 8-8.
In a fiercely fought first half, Ken Salote gave Namibia the lead but Tanzania soon equalised. Salote scored his second goal to put Namibia 2-1 ahead but Tanzania once again drew level at 2-2, before a Maximilian Boll goal gave Namibia a slender 3-2 lead at the halftime break.
Namibia stepped up the tempo in the second half and pulled ahead on the score board. Wesley Otto made it 4-2, Salote completed his hattrick to make it 5-2, and when Vilho Lawrence scored Namibia’s sixth goal, they took the aggregate lead for the first time, with the overall score at 8-7.
Tanzania pulled a goal back in the final minutes amid dramatic scenes, while Namibia also had a goal disallowed, but they held on for the 6-3 victory to win the tie on the away goals rule.
According to Namibian futsal organiser Andrei Tirtirau, the match ended in disorder and confusion while they waited to confirm the winner.
“Tanzania was not very happy, there was a big polemic at the end because of the aggregate goals and the commissioner was not really sure if we had to go to penalties or if we won on the away goals, but the referee had already called the match in our favour. But then we had to wait around for about 15 to 20 minutes when things got quite heated,” he said.
“They brought in a band to play non-stop next to our bench, the fans kept disconnecting the screens, and there was not enough security. The Tanzanian Futsal Federation did not really organise the event properly, we did it well at home, but here we were really not treated well, but in the end it was all showcased on the court,” he added.
According to Tirtirau, Namibia also had a legitimate goal by Vilho Lawrence disallowed due to dubious umpiring.
“We created lots of chances and we also had a goal disallowed so we should have won 7-3. Vilho scored with a great freekick, it hit the upright and bounced over the goal line, but the referee disallowed it, saying the ball rolled and was not stationary when he took it. But the court was uneven and full of bubbles, so the ball kept on rolling all the time. But we made it, it was a very interesting experience, and now we are going to Morocco,” he said.
Tirtirau said they were well prepared and quietly confident of causing an upset.
“The players were ready and prepared for a war, that’s what they were saying every morning, that they are here to go to war, because they are not into losing. They said it’s time to enjoy playing futsal again, it’s time to show them that we know what we are doing,” he said.
“The coaches focussed on our finishing, because I think that’s the main reason why we lost at home. We played a good game but our finishing let us down,” he added.
“We focussed on finishing and quick one-two touches, the break-aways, and we used a lineup that was a lot more solid, so we had a starting five that stayed on pretty much for the whole game, in and out with a few other players. Our goalkeeper Riya Usurua did a fantastic job and also saved a penalty, so for me he was definitely the man of the match,” he said.
After the match Namibian coach Donawald Modise gave a rousing speech in their dressing room as the players cheered and celebrated their success.
“No one believed that we could create such an upset. We didn’t have a sponsor, but we kept on running the league, and we played on,” he said.
“When the team was selected people doubted us, when the coaches were selected people doubted us, and when we lost at home people doubted us, people were pointing fingers at us, telling us we can’t make it, but now it’s our time.”
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