Gritty Gladiators must learn from Mares – Jacobs 

Lovisa Mulunga in action for Namibia against Botswana. Photo: contributed

Namibia should take a leaf from Botswana’s book on how to reach the elite level in women’s football, Brave Gladiators head coach Woody Jacobs said after holding the Women Africa Cup of Nations-bound Mares to a 1-1 stalemate in Maun on Tuesday.

The tactician, who doubles as Botswana Premier League side Matebele FC coach, said the encounter provided a learning opportunity with plenty of eye-opening takeaways on and off the field of play.

He was mostly pleased that the Gladiators got a rare out-of-competition workout to measure their level against the 2022 Wafcon quarter-finalists.

“Well for us, to play a match is always valuable, and to play a strong opponent in Botswana, a team that we haven’t beaten in a long time, speaks volumes,” Jacobs said in his post-match brief.

“But salvaging a draw against a very strong opponent for us is good and also getting some game time under our belt. Women football is neglected most of the time, I think.

“Especially in the our case where we only go to competitions,” he said.

“But in periods such as these, where Fifa allows us to play, it’s always nice to play, and Botswana has been a good friend to us.”

Botswana had the better of the exchanges in the first half, taking the lead through Leungo Senwelo’s strike on 36 minutes.

However, Namibia, who shaded the second period, equalised two minutes later through talismanic skipper Zenatha Coleman.

With neither side able to find a winner, a share of the spoils was a fair reflection of the clash.

“We have really learnt a lot, and for you going to Morocco and preparing for the Women African Cup of Nations, we’re sure we also helped prepare you for that competition,” Jacobs said.

“I think you’ve grown immensely in terms of women football. The men may not be there yet, but I think it’s also a work in progress, and for us it’s nice to play a strong opponent like Botswana.”

Jacobs commended the hosts for inviting the Gladiators and wished them well as they take on the best on the continent at the showpiece competition, which kicks off in Morocco on 1 July.

This year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) is expected to be the most keenly contested since its inception in 1998, following the exploits of Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco at the Fifa Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, where all of them reached the last 16.

Those are the levels Namibia should aspire to reach, said Jacobs, who feels that regular international engagements would help the Gladiators breach the gap to the top sides in the same way Botswana has.

“I believe we can only use this as a stepping stone for greater things to come. Botswana persevered, and I say kudos to you for the way you’ve done it.

“We can only learn from you how to get past the final round of qualification,” Jacobs said.


Botswana will be making their second successive appearance at the finals.

They are one of three Cosafa nations at the tournament along with current champions South Africa and Zambia, who also competed at the last world cup.

Host Morocco, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Algeria and Tunisia complete the line-up.

“Because now in two [Wafcon] editions we’ve lost out. Last time was Zambia and now recently we managed to beat Ghana at home in Johannesburg, because we cannot play in Windhoek – something so sad.

“We lost out again on a three-two aggregate,” said Jacobs.

“But it’s always a learning curve, and I want to see my captain here go to another edition of Wafcon before she hangs up her boots.

“I think she deserves it. She’s been a stalwart for the team and an immense player, so that’s our aim. We are using this friendly match we had here today in moving towards qualification for 2027,” he said.

“It looks far-fetched, but we’re going to take it one step at a time. I hope by 2027 we’re going to reach the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.”

Coleman, who plays for Turkish glamour side Fenerbache, is keen to crown her illustrious career with a second appearance at the continental finals.

Like her coach, she wants the Gladiators to mirror Botswana’s success story and use Tuesday’s result as a reference point.

“It’s very good to see your neighbouring country doing so well. Hopefully we can also reach this level,” said Coleman, whose professional career has taken her to Lithuania, Spain and now Türkiye.

“I just want to wish Botswana the best for the Wafcon. Hopefully, after two years we could also see Namibia there.

“You never give up. We hosted it in 2014, so I want to qualify. I’m not going give up,” the captain said.

“I will decide when I hang up my boots. I’m still looking forward to working on my dreams.”

As the longest-serving member of the team, Coleman believes the composition of the team aligns with its objectives.

“It’s quite impressive, because there’s young competition. Hopefully they can learn from me. I just want to keep pushing them and wish they could also stay on the national team for long, because there will come a time we will not be here,” she said.

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