Namibian women in search of Olympic ticket

Deputy minister of sport, Emma Kantema-Gaomas (centre, front) with members of the NHU and the women’s hockey team. Photo: contributed

Namibia’s national women’s outdoor hockey team leaves for Pretoria, South Africa this weekend for the Afcon Olympic Qualifier, where only the winning nation will book their ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

Seven nations will compete in two pools for the solitary Olympic ticket, with South Africa starting as the strong favourites.

They are ranked 21st in the world and are favourites to top Pool A which also includes Nigeria (38th) and Zimbabwe (39th).

Namibia, which is ranked 50th in the world, will compete in Pool B against Ghana (33rd), Kenya (36th) and Zambia (73rd).

The team received an official send-off on Monday when deputy minister of sport, Emma Kantema-Gaomas, pledged financial support from the government. 

“The deputy minister promised that she will get funding. We initially asked for N$2,8 million and she said provision had already been made,” the PRO of the Namibia Hockey Union (NHU), Tunomwaameni Epafras, said yesterday. 

“We requested the funding for the Olympic qualifiers, but if we don’t receive it in time it will also go towards the Women’s Hockey Fives World Cup in January next year, and a four nations indoor tournament where Namibia is competing in Cape Town in December. We are very grateful for the assistance,” he said. 

The ministry’s assistance follows more funding that the Namibian women’s hockey squad received from the Namibia National Olympic Committee last week, amounting to US$12 000.

“The NNOC grant was from their Olympic Solidarity fund of US$12 000, which is strictly for use in preparation for the Olympic Games. We will receive 75 percent of the total now, and if we qualify for the Olympics we will receive the extra 25 percent,” Epafras said. 

The NHU yesterday announced a squad of 18 players, which will be captained by goalkeeper Petro Stoffberg. 

It has several new players in the side like Adore Meyer, Jaime Henkert, Anri Els and Nangula Iyemba, while the experienced guard includes Gillian Hermanus, Sunelle Ludwig and Jerrica Cormack.

Epafras also mentioned that Cedric Makati had been appointed interim head coach after the resignation of Melissa Gillies on 28 September. 

“Cedric is the head coach of the women’s fives team, so he’s already been preparing for that. He said it was a bit of a hiccup, but nothing he can’t handle,” he said. 

Epafras said he believed in the Namibian team’s chances of success. 

“I think we have a good chance. They’ve put in all of the hard work, so now they must preparementally and ensure that they are representing the nation to the best of their ability. I believe in the ladies, and the deputy minister also said that so many people are now following hockey because of their successes on the international stage.”

Gillies, meanwhile, said she did not want to elaborate on the reasons for her resignation.

“It is sad, but I think there comes a time when you realise that your aspirations and dreams will not materialise. Although I do have a lot that I would like to comment, there isn’t really any point, so all I want to say is that I wish the players well at the upcoming Afcon event,” she said. 

The Namibian squad is as follows: 

Petro Stoffberg (captain), Jaime Henckert, Sunelle Ludwig, Nangula Iyemba, Emilia Kashopola, Tisha Semedo, Anthea Coetzee, Xena Martins, Jerrica Bartlett, Gillian Hermanus, Charlize Rix, Britta Haensel, Vanessa Schoeman, Jahntwa Kruger, Jivanka Kruger, Adore Meyer, Anri Els, Tara Myburgh. 

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