- I saw it coming three years ago – Barry Rukoro
- We need to start all over – Woody Jacobs
- Football administrators must be removed physically – Olsen Kahiriri
The crisis in Namibian football has become a weekly topic – a crisis threatening the future of football in the country. The government has been on record saying it is unable to bail out football and as it appears, the future of football in the country remains bleak. As the search for funds to kick-start the country’s flagship league continues and soccer fans wait to fill the stadiums again, discourses around the fracas that the Namibia Premier League finds itself in are growing, with unique ideologies coming out on how to resolve the situation. Public discussions this week pointed out issues of management and strategic planning to have been the cause of the predicament with some vividly admitting that it was bound to happen even sooner. Regardless of the causes, lives are at a standstill, as those who depended on the sport for their livelihood now find themselves with no source of income.
Unlike many who are shocked at the fall of the league, a few who have been in the system are surprised this did not happen earlier. “I am happy with the management of the NPL for coming this far. This problem was supposed to happen 3-4 years ago,” said Namibia Football Association’s Secretary General Barry Rukoro on ‘Talk of the Nation’ early this week.
While Rukoro noted that funding is the main problem for the football association, he reveals that he harboured doubts about the sustainability of the league. Early this year, Black Africa’s head announced the cancellation of player’s contracts, a move which Ruroro said was a result of the poor sustainability methods used. “When Ranga Haikali cancelled the contracts of his players, I was the first person to say we have been overpaying our players. Is it sustainable to pay players N$8000-N$9000 in salaries in this country? So when I say I saw this coming, I have questioned the sustainability of those salaries already three years ago. And when it happened, I was not surprised.”
When asked what he did then to make sure the fracas does not surface, the NFA head, who has been in the position for 22 years, said the analysis was in his personal capacity and not that of the NFA. Rukoro’s length of service under the NFA has come under scrutiny, with many saying it does not speak to the association’s expected performance. Some have even alleged that the reason for his incompetence is linked the absence of his Grade 12 certificate. Football administrators must leave Namibia Footballer Players Union (NAFPU) Secretary General did not spare football administrators any space, blaming them for the failure of football in the country. “Football administrators are living lavish lives. They buy properties cash. But these people do not work anywhere else besides running football.
How do you buy a property of N$1 million when you only run football? On what salary did you gather that money? So there is reality check that we must do,” Kahiriri said before arguing about the credentials possessed by the administrators to run the affairs of football.
“A football player is getting thinner while the football administrator is getting fat. They are getting so fat that they cannot even fit in their offices,” he added. The unionist has come to conclude that government also has failed sports in setting the developmental agenda. He said this in reference to the absence of sports and culture in national agendas such as the NDP 4 and the newly crafted Harambee Prosperity Plan. “When people make budgets, people look at priorities. And it seems sport is not a priority in Namibia. People are saying the Harambee [Prosperity] Plan is a flexible and inclusive plan but sport is left out. In fact, athletes are left out. In the Land of the Brave, our athletes who go to represent the country abroad go with nothing while ambassadors who go abroad get their S&T way before they even go. So can government really blame corporate Namibia when government itself has failed sport?” he asked.
Starting with the management of football, Kahiriri is of the opinion that if football is ever to prosper, the current administrators must leave office. “These arrogant people, who think they own football alone must be dealt with. It is high time we get rid of these people whose interest is not football but their own stomach. Enough is enough. We are going to physically remove football administrators from the offices because they are not willing to go.”
Start all over
The situation has brought many to understand that perhaps the fraternity needed this standstill in order to learn a lesson and start all over. But while all consequences are measured, families will lose their source of income. But this, ex-Black Africa coach Woody Jacobs believes should rather be a learning curve. “My sentiments are with the players who no longer have an income because of one or two individuals who brought soccer to a stagnant mode. Every day you get a text from a player saying ‘coach can you lend me N$100, there is no electricity at home or I need to buy food.’ These people have wives and children they need to look after but their jobs are no more so it is tough for them,” said Jacobs.
While he shares the same sentiments with Kahiriri on the administration of football, Jacobs believes it is because of the same reason that sponsors will not come on board, saying the image has been tarnished and is not worth investing in. He said it is high time administrators are also criticised, according to their performance. Jacobs and other stakeholders claim to have approached the NPL administration in order to digest solutions but their efforts were futile, as their credibility was questioned. “If I do not perform as a coach, people say ‘fire the coach’. But Barry has been there for 22 years and JJD (NPL Chairman Johnny Doeseb) for nine years, did they fail? When do we say that they should also go and allow progressive people? In the past years, we have had sponsors like Bidvest, FNB, Skorpion Zinc Mine, Namibia Breweries, and now MTC, leave the league. Do we really want to say there is no problem here?” asked Jacobs. Jacobs, who last coached early this year in April thus believes, with everything at stake, it is rather better to start all over from a clean sheet. For the sake of a better administered game of football, Jacobs said even if it will take FIFA to suspend the country, this is the cost the country needs to pay to show the reality on the ground.
Last year, the Indonesian FA was suspended by FIFA for government interference while Kuwait’s FA also suffered the same fate. Benin was also suspended this year. Should Namibia’s football remain at a standstill, the country might dance to the same tune.
“We are painting a picture to the outside world that everything is ok. Things have never been ok here,” said Jacobs. With the premier league currently in need of an urgent resurrection, clubs like Tigers have decided to suspend training until further notice.
Speaking to Brian Isaacs yesterday, the Tigers coach said the situation is beyond their control. “There is a cost exercise such as paying for transport that we cannot fund at the moment. This will, of course, affect the players in terms of performance but we wait and hope for the best.”