MTC Hopsol Youth League going strong 

Riverheights (in orange) beat Windhoek Gymnasium 2-1 on 12 May 2024. Photo: Helge Schütz

Youth football in Namibia continues to grow with the MTC Hopsol Youth League once again in full swing for the eighth successive year. 

From humble beginnings in 2017 when the league was launched through a sponsorship by the solar energy company, Hopsol Africa, it has steadily grown and today about 1 800 children from u9 to u19 level are actively involved.

Besides that telecommunications giant MTC also came on board as a major sponsor three years ago and earlier this year renewed its sponsorship for another three years, while Hopsol also renewed its sponsorship for another three years. 

The league is mainly limited to Windhoek-based teams and initially established football clubs like Ramblers, SKW and DTS were the teams to beat, but several football academies have sprouted over the years, with some of them going on to challenge the big guns.

Riverheights Football Academy, which only started about three years ago in Goreangab won the u17 title in 2022 and retained the title last year, while Kasaona Football Academy, run by former Brave Gladiators player Uerikondjera Kasaona, won bronze medals in three age group categories in 2022. 

Namibia’s national senior coach Collin Benjamin, a co-founder of the league, also started the Collin Benjamin Soccer Academy about three years ago, which is doing very well, as it is currently lying at the top of the u19 log. 

The league has given young children in Windhoek a platform to display their talents, with several going on to play at regionalor national level, but besides that, it also has a strong social responsibility component with many clubs now helping to provide food, transport and education for some of its players.

League administrator Cynthia Balzar said that social upliftment formed a key element of their philosophy. 

“For us it’s important that the league is not just a platform for soccer, but also for lifeskills and what we do to help develop the children. For instance we try to instill discipline and teach them the importance of being on time, while we also have a strict code of conduct,” she said. 

“Several clubs also assist with food and transport for their players while others have even started providing education at their premises after school hours,” she added.

Benjamin also provides education opportunities for talented youngsters from the regions, by enrolling them at Jan Mohr High School, while Ricky Averia from ACFA and Nixon Marcus from Riverheights also assist financially to help with education.

Besides that, Riverheights, who stunned the football establishment when they won the u17 league in only their second year in 2022, are now planning to replace their gravel field in Goreangab with a sand pitch, while they hope to raise funds to eventually build an astroturf football pitch. 

The league is also attracting top former players as coaches, like former Brave Warriors striker Henrico Botes, who recently joined CBSA, and former national defender Ivan Namaseb who coaches Riverheights. 

Botes was previously Tigers’ attacking coach, but their association didn’t last long as he explained. 

“I joined Tigers in August last year with the view to  become their attacking coach. I enjoyed it quite a lot it was also my first stint in Namibia as a coach, but due to circumstances I dont want to go into we decided to amicably part ways. So I left Tigers in January this year to concentrate on youth development. I have a passion for the younger ones because I think we need to groom them and do the right things with regard to football development, so I decided to join CBSA,” he said. 

“It’s exciting for me to see the vast talent that Namibia offers and I just hope our assciation will try and support this development because these boys are the future of the Brave Warriors,” he added. 

Namaseb meanwhile said he was impressed by his players’ commitment. 

“I was with DTS for about five years, it was a good experience and I learnt a lot, but I just felt it was time for a change, so I joined Riverheights. I am really impressed with these boys – they are passionate, they want to play football and they are always there, so they just need to be guided in the right direction,” he said.

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