Brave 5 scale Afcon peak

The Namibian futsal team in Morocco. Photo: contributed

Namibia are not at the Futsal Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Morocco to make up numbers, head coach Ryan Jago says.

They open their debut campaign with a clash against fellow debutantes Mauritania today, before taking on record African champions Egypt on Sunday and then Libya on Tuesday in Group B.

The hosts and defending champions, Morocco, lead an intriguing Group A, which includes Angola, third-placed in 2020, Ghana, runners-up in 1996, and Zambia, returning to the tournament after missing out in the last edition in 2020.

The seventh edition of the fast-paced indoor football competition takes place between 11 and 21 April at the Salle Prince Moulay Abdellah and the Salle IBN Yassine in Rabat.

“We are fully confident in our ability and approach to the tournament. We have full confidence in the boys performing and getting the job done,” Jago said at the pre-match media conference on Wednesday.

His confidence has not been dampened by the Brave 5 going down 11-3 in a warm up match against Moroccan club AOKHK in Rabat on Monday.

“I feel like we will do well. We want not only to participate but to compete. We are aiming to get through the group stages and do the best we can,” said Jago.

“I appreciate that there will be some tough challenges. There’ll be some exceptional teams, like Egypt and Morocco. Teams that have won several Afcons.

“Not to mention the other nations that are here, there are some very incredible teams. We have a very tough challenge ahead but it’s something that we feel confident about; we will challenge.”

Namibia has proven cable of rising to the occasion and overcoming challenges in their brief Futsal international history, said Ken Salote Salote.

Getting to Morocco appeared a tall order following a 5-2 first leg defeat to Tanzania in Windhoek. But the Brave 5 produced a scintillating second-leg performance in Dar es Salaam, winning 6-3 to win the tie on the away goals rule.

“We’re motivated to do well,” Salote said.

“It’s not about how we start; it’s about how we end, so the setback in our friendly is behind us now. We made the mistakes and we didn’t take our chances, so we don’t have to look for excuses.”

With the leading lights present, as debutants with no pedigree in the sport, Namibia are not expected to challenge for honours.

Egypt is currently the most successful nation in Afcon Futsal, with three titles, followed by defending champions Morocco, with two titles, while Libya seeks their second title after their 2008 triumph as hosts.

The top two finishers from each group will advance to the semi-finals of the tournament, which also serves as a qualifier for the Fifa Futsal World Cup.

Teams finishing on the podium in Morocco will gain automatic qualification to the world event taking place in Uzbekistan between 14 September and 16 October this year.

Jago feels they can shake up the establishment.

“We’re very excited to be here. It’s a whole new experience. I keep telling the boys to enjoy the whole process, we work hard but enjoy the process as well,” he said.

“You’ve got to be in it to win it, and we believe that’s the way we need to be addressing this challenge.

“The tournament has some incredible teams and we know it would be a tough challenge but we are fully confident that we can come away with a World Cup place,” Jago said.

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