Stars down Pirates to stay starring

African Stars celebrate after winning the Debmarine Namibia Premiership. Photo: contributed

African Stars cemented their status as the pre-eminent football club side in the land with a third successive top flight title triumph on Saturday, as the sun set on another of its big rivals – Orlando Pirates – who will join fallen giants Black Africa in the first division next season.

Stars beat Pirates 2-0 in their final Debmarine Namibia Premiership match at Windhoek’s Independence Stadium to hold on to their crown by two points over Ongos, while sealing the Buccaneers demotion to the Southern Stream First Division.

Also going down are Life Fighters from Otjiwarongo and neighbours Okakarara Young Warriors, whose debut topflight campaign did not mirror that of fellow novices Khomas Nampol and Eeshoke Chula Chula, who finished in the top five.

For Starlile, title glory provides much needed respite from the turbulence which has left them in arrears of over N$1 million.

Last week, Fifa ordered the club to pay ex-forward Ernest Adiwoh N$180 000 for breach of contract and unfair dismissal of the Ghanaian.

In March, world football’s governing body also hit Stars with a N$120 000 fine for a similar offence regarding another Ghanaian and their former coach Prince Koffie.

The Fifa sanctions are in addition to the club still struggling to settle their N$1,4 million bill for a clandestine loan obtained from the Namibia Football Association to cover the cost of their brief CAF Champions League campaign.

The strain of playing on the continent appeared to take its toll on the club, with inconsistent results seeing the champions go through an unprecedented three coaching changes to ensure they retain league honours.

After dispensing of Koffie in December, Stars unceremoniously fired his successor and former assistant Marvin Mbakera in late February and replaced him with Fillemon Kanalelo.

Mbakera led Stars to league success the season before.

“It’s been an incredible journey filled with dedication, passion and teamwork. Huge congratulations to our players, coaches and fans for their unwavering support,” the club said on its Facebook page when announcing its sixth league title victory with a slew celebratory images.

Assistant coach Andrew Tjahikika said the experience and winning mentality of a squad teeming with seasoned campaigners pushed them over the finish line, as upstarts Khomas Nampol and Ongos, formerly Tura Magic, pushed them all the way.

“We had to push them throughout the league [season]. It was not easy. Luckily, we are here now. We’re celebrating, we’re happy,” Tjahikika said.

“Going forward. We need to strengthen the squad. We are going to look for some four or five players and I think we’ll be ready for the next season.”

Saturday’s success also marked six topflight titles for star player and joint-golden boot winner Wily ‘Awilo’ Stephanus, who joined an exclusive club of a handful players to have achieved the feat.

He has won four league crowns on the bounce with Black Africa, who were relegated to the Southern Stream First Division in the 2021-22 season, and two with Stars.

“I’m one of the fortunate players who have won it six times,” said Stephanus, who also won the golden boot last season.

“For myself, the second round was not good like last season. I only scored two goals, something that I need to look into as a player. Fortunately, today I could score one more which made me the joint top scorer.”

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