The Under-17 Baby Warriors recently caught the Namibian nation by surprise when they claimed the 2016 COSAFA Under-17 Championship title in Mauritius. The nation, just like after last year’s Brave Warriors Cosafa triumph, started celebrating the boys and even congratulating the Skorpion Zinc Mine for sponsoring the boys.
This is a culture that the national football caretaker says needs to change in realising proper sports development in the country. In an exclusive interview with The Patriot, Ricardo Manetti said even if clubs have the responsibility to realise football’s grass-roots development, the circle is bigger in realising this dream and thus the stakeholders need to up their game. “One can really see that there is growth within the association. Within two years, we won a cup last year, we won a plate and now the Under-17 boys brought another Cosafa Cup. Success is really brewing,” said Manetti.
He adds that clubs have to play their part. “It is as simple as that. If you are, for example, a club like Civics and you do not have a development team, then we have a problem. It is every club’s responsibility to make sure that they have an Under-15, 17 or 20 team to develop players from a young age.”The coach also called on the revival of school football that has been dormant over the past years. He referred to his days as a teen, saying it used to be a big thing compared to today. “We can do better in schools football. Back in the days, it used to be big. At the moment, schools are not taking football seriously. Principals are not taking football seriously and teachers responsible are sometimes not getting the support.”
Take away the PlayStation
In addition to school, Manetti did not spare the ‘school only’ mentality that has glued children to books only. He said today people are just focused on studying and studying only. “School is not bad at all, in fact, it is a priority but people should also understand that there is enough room in the brain of a child to be educated and be good at sports at the same time. Frankie Fredericks showed us, so your child can do it as well. When your child comes from school, he goes and plays PlayStation but you do not want him to go play soccer. In fact, it is a N$5 000 worth of PlayStation. Parents should become serious and allow their children to play football. Otherwise, take away the PlayStation as well if you are not serious.”
On top of Fredericks, Manetti also made reference to the current national team captain, Ronald Ketjijere, who is a lawyer but plays football too. “I am thus very against this PlayStation thing because these are the same parents who complain and blame the stunted growth of football in the country, while their children are busy playing PlayStations.”
Sports have been underfunded in Namibia at amounts that do not speak to the same dream and aspiration of the developing country’s sports hopes. Sponsors who meet the sporting fraternities halfway continue to do their part but Manetti believes it is not enough, especially in a country with money and a lot of companies. He also tackled the issue of high expectations that come from the public when the means to meet the expectations are below par. “We are a country of about 2 million people so it is close to impossible to fill up stadiums every weekend. Sometimes the companies hide behind the question of what they can get back if they sponsor football. The corporate industry needs to understand that they are doing this for the benefit of the Namibian child and not to constantly want something back.
“The most priceless thing you can get back is after five years when that boy plays for Manchester United or somewhere big. That boy will then also come back and invest back in the country.
So this excuse of what a company can get back is an old excuse. Corporate Namibia needs to get serious, parents need to join hands and we all need to up our game. We cannot have a situation where after 15 years we win a Cosafa Cup and then we don’t know when we are going to get the cup again. “We cannot have a Johanna Benson situation where out of the blue we get a medal. No. In order to win and become a winning nation, parents, companies, coaches and everyone need to be on the same wave length to make sure we get the results.”
Sponsorships, Donations vs Investments
Different sport codes – both at national and at club level – have over the years come forward seeking for financial support. In fact, money has always been drown out to reason why sports cannot be at its best in Namibia and thus the influence it has on the consistency of results that the nation expects. “What we are getting at the moment is not enough to get us consistent results. We can only speak about consistency when corporate Namibia sponsors sports consistently. You cannot give N$50 000 and call it a sponsorship. Maybe we must also get the difference between sponsorship and a donation.
You will not change someone’s life if you give N$50 000 for the whole year and after you ask to take photos for media coverage. The rest of the world on the other side are investing millions and billions and only see the results after five to six years.” Manetti said that Namibia, at the moment does not seehave companies that are willing to spend promising amounts to better sport while the expectations are so high. He says that until the country shifts its mindset to move from donations to serious investments, the situation will not get better.
“There are enough companies and this country has money. If you look at the number of tenders going out every day, you will understand. No child should even be suffering when it comes to football or any other sports code to start with.”While the national team caretaker looks forward to see bigger investments in football, he also shared his immediate plans for the Brave Warriors, which he said was to get the team to qualify for the Nations Cup in 2019. The campaign starts next year.