Oh, what a feeling to be Namibian

TIRELESS… Ryan Nyambe and Aprocius Petrus in action for Namibia against Tunisia at Korhogo on Tuesday. Photo: Helge Schütz

Namibia’s Brave Warriors produced the shock of the Afcon 2023 tournament so far with a stunning 1-0 victory against Tunisia on Tuesday night.

With only two minutes of normal time remaining, and the match seemingly heading for a goalless draw, Deon Hotto swept in to head home a pinpoint cross by Muzeu Muzeu, sending Namibia’s handful of fans at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo wild with delight.

Many more Malian and South African fans who had gathered for their subsequent encounter also celebrated the stunning strike, and with the momentum now firmly with Namibia against Tunisia’s shell-shocked Carthage Eagles, Hotto even added a second moments later, only for the goal to be disallowed for offside.

It didn’t matter though, as Namibia defended courageously for an excruciating eight minutes of extra time, and when the final whistle finally went, fans of all persuasions rose as one to applaud the Brave Warriors and soak in the historic occasion.

It was Namibia’s first ever victory at the Afcon finals and a massive upset against one of the giants of African football, currently ranked third on the continent, compared to Namibia’s 25th place.

But it was no fluke and fully deserved. Although Tunisia dominated possession – 62% to Namibia’s 38% – Namibia were more effective and created more chances, with six shots on target compared to Tunisia’s four.

Peter Shalulile had two clear-cut chances in the first half, only to be denied by some great saves by Tunisia’s goalkeeper, while at the other end, Namibian keeper Lloyd Kazapua also pulled off some brilliant reflex saves.

The rest of the players all played their part with their constant pressing and tireless running to deliver a stunning upset at a tournament that has already seen quite a few.

At the post-match press conference, man of the match Hotto, nearly overwhelmed by emotion, said it was a historic achievement.

“It feels marvellous, and I’m just so grateful.

It’s something big for a country like Namibia, it’s our first win at the Africa Cup of Nations, so for us it’s history, and we are just grateful.

“We came here not just to make up the numbers, but to compete, and the support we are getting from back home is very big – the country is right behind us.

“Today it showed that our small country is hard at work, and for every young girl or boy back home in Namibia, it shows that if you just put in the hard work, it will pay off,” he said. Regarding his goal, Hotto said it was well rehearsed.

“Muzeu knew what his task was and he actually did what we have been training on all along. It was a pinpoint cross, I read him when he cut in, and I knew he was going to bring the ball to the far post.

“We knew Tunisia like to push their fullbacks high, and that’s where we capitalised,” he said.

Namibian coach Collin Benjamin was also clearly touched by the occasion, saying it filled him with pride.

“Namibia has always been getting beatings economically, politically and in a lot of other spheres, so these Brave Warriors today brought some restoration and pride, and this is for every Namibian, wherever they find themselves in this wide world of ours.

“For them it’s a huge thing. I can’t imagine what’s happening in Windhoek, Oshakati and everywhere – this is for you as Namibians,” he said.

“This is ecstacy, it’s a feeling I can’t describe, I’m just proud at this moment to be a Namibian, I’m proud to be the coach of these players, I’m proud of those players, and it’s a proud moment.

“And it’s well deserved. I think we created good chances in the first half, and I think if we were clinical and a bit more experienced, we could have been leading at least two or three zero,” he said.

Benjamin said the victory could have far-reaching implications for the players.

“We were never given a chance, but we are happy for this opportunity.

Our players are hungry and they need this platform to take the next step in their careers, so it’s more than just soccer, it’s life changing.

“Today we celebrate, but tomorrow morning at eight o’clock some will be in the gym and some on the field, and we will continue to work,” he said.

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