Everyone is celebrating the success of the indoor hockey national team but little is mentioned about the force behind the hardworking ladies-head coach Erwin Handura. Handura achieved yet another milestone when he steered the indoor women’s national team to a World Cup spot next year after beating their South African counterparts last weekend on home soil. Handura has been a hit since arriving on the national hockey scene in 2015, so many feel the success of the indoor hockey team should be of no surprise after guiding the team to World Cup. Last time the team made it to the world cup was in 2011. “This time around we deserved it because we worked very hard. The support we got from our sponsors (Seaflower), enables us to have four training camps, something that was never done in this country. So we are happy and it means a lot for Namibia,” said Handura during an interview this week.
Taking on the head coach position of the team in 2015, his winning streaks with the national team started in 2014 at the Junior World Cup qualifiers held in Pretoria where the team ended third. He was the assistant coach then. In 2015, the national team scooped another bronze at the Senior Women Africa Cup of Nations. In the same year, the team under the stewardship of Handura won silver at the Four Nations Tournament in South Africa. Last weekend’s victory adds a fourth medal, but this time gold, cementing his place as one of the best in the genre and taking the country to compete amongst the greatest nations.
On club level, Handura has dominated the hockey turfs with the University of Namibia men and women teams. With the men’s team, he won 13 titles in the indoor competitions and 12 titles in the outdoor competitions. Handura is no rookie to the hockey stables. He started his hockey career in 1996, playing for Unam, before being appointed as a development officer. In 1996, he received a scholarship from the Commonwealth Games Association of Canada through the Olympics Committee to study Sport Science at the University of Victoria in Canada for two years. Upon his return, it was all about applying his knowledge thus taking on the junior and senior hockey teams. During that time, he also attended various coaching sessions around the globe. The success of the hockey team thus comes as no fluke when a man of his experience is behind the line dishing out instructions.
“This means a lot for the players and the country at large. It is the highest competition in the world so we are going to compete against the best teams.” Of the 12 teams in the world competition, Namibia will be rubbing shoulder with the greatest Australia, Belarus, Czech Republic, Germany, Kazakhstan, Poland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Ukraine and others yet to qualify. “To be in the top 12 in the world is amazing.”
This now means Namibia are number 1 in Africa and ranked top 12th in the world. Should the team win one game at the world cup, they will get a spot in the top 10. Two victories at the world cup means that they can take a spot in the top 8. And once a team makes it in top 6, they automatically qualify for the next world cup which is Handura’s next plan with the team. “So we want to make sure that we qualify for the next one. We have a very young team with so we still have a long way to go.” The 2018 Women’s Indoor Hockey World Cup will be the fifth edition of this tournament. It will be played on 7 and 11 February 2018 in Berlin, Germany.
Handura highlighted that the qualifiers were not easy, especially facing South Africa, a team that has disappointed the girls on numerous occasions including the men’s team over the weekend. At the 2014 qualifier, South Africa beat Namibia 2-1, so it was time it came to an end.
“We worked hard and the girls played as a team. Before the games, I spent a lot of time on footage and analyzing the opponents. We asked for help from God above and we did it.” Handura said he has already started making contact with potential sponsors and engaging other stakeholders. The team will have a couple of training camps including a participation in a tournament in Cape Town in December to help them get ready for the world competition. “At the moment a few doors have opened and there are people that have vowed to help us with preparations. We are planning for a big training camp in Europe early next year to acclimatize before the competition.”