The Brave Warriors finally returned home yesterday, tired after a long flight, but happy in the knowledge that they had created history at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) 2023 in the Ivory Coast.
After a 17-hour journey, from Abidjan, via Accra and Johannesburg, the first group of players touched down at Hosea Kutako International Airport at 11h00 where they were welcomed back by a government delegation, as well as members of the Namibia Football Association (NFA) under the leadership of president Robert Shimooshili.
At this stage, not many fans had assembled, but by the time a second group arrived via Addis Ababa at 13h30, several fans, family members and friends, as well as sport minister Agnes Tjongarero, had arrived to give them an enthusiastic welcome.
Shimooshili said the team had made history and captured the imagination of the entire nation.
“The excitement is very high, for all Namibians, and the national team belongs to the entire nation, not necessarily only to the NFA or the government, but it’s for all of us. For Namibia to reach the second round at Afcon is an achievement, it’s historic, and as a result, we have no other words, rather to appreciate the boys and we have to support them on and off the pitch,” he said.
Shimooshili paid tribute to Namibians of all walks of life for their support during Namibia’s run at the tournament.
“The boys did a great job and many Namibians, even those of us in the leadership, were surprised to see how many Namibians came out in numbers to support the boys. Some used their own resources to go to the Ivory Coast, while others gave sponsorships, especially PstBet who sponsored supporters’ kits with the national flag, which is a great thing,” he said.
“Here in Namibia, everyone was watching TV to watch the boys – town councils, municipalities, the City of Windhoek and other local authorities provided big screens to give an opportunity for the Namibian nation to watch their boys and it’s really something which one needs to appreciate,” he added.
‘NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE’
Shimooshili said Namibia had great potential to do even better.
“We appreciate what they did, but now we want to continue to ensure that when the next Afcon comes, Namibia will reach the final, nothing is impossible. We saw how skilfull our boys were – to beat Tunisia is not an easy thing, they are a big team and most of their players play in Europe, the same with Mali, but our boys showed what they are capable of,” he said.
“We now have to look to the future and prepare the incoming boys to replace those who are close to retirement. Some of them will not play in the next edition of Afcon, so we have to prepare them and give them opportunities,” he added.
Shimooshili called on the private sector to invest in football infrastructure.
“We don’t have a stadium here in the country, so we want to call on the local authorities to come on board, even more than they have done in the past, to allocate land so that we can construct stadiums and offices, as well to administer and manage our football affairs so that we can grow,” he said.
“The more we look after our youth at grassroots level, the better Namibian football teams will become, especially here in southern Africa, if not worldwide, nothing is impossible,” he added.
Deputy minister of sport, youth and national service Emma Kantema-Gaomas said the tournament as a whole was of a very high level.
“We have seen that the level of competition has been elevated at this Afcon. Like our president said, there are no more small teams or big teams, so for us it’s good to see that the level has been elevated and it’s also good to see that the teams came prepared,” she said.
“We saw some excellent performances, we saw big teams exiting the competition right from the group stage and really for us as Namibia, I have to say that we recorded some of our best performances in history,” she added.
“Being able to go through to the knockout stage was historic, and it shows that Namibia has come of age and for us as the ministry, as the government and as the NFA, we are taking this as learning lessons and we are going to work to see how we can improve for the future.”
Kantema-Gaomas said they are determined to upgrade Windhoek’s Independence Stadium so that Namibia will once again be able to host international matches.
“We observed the infrastructure, Cote d’Ivoire really invested in infrastructure, you have seen the stadium in Korhogo, it’s a small town, but the stadium is big and world-class, as well as the one in Bouake, so for us as a ministry, it’s giving us a sense of urgency to act and to expedite our renovation and upgrade our stadium to ensure that our home games are played at home,” she said.
Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –