National team caretaker Ricardo Mannetti urged Premier League coaches to attend the 18th edition of the Namibian Newspaper Cup in order to spot young talent.
Mannetti said the tournament, which is slated for 31 March to 2 April in Katima Mulilo will see another blazing platform featuring a potential crop of talent that could possibly feed the national team in the years to come.
“This tournament is the last step in terms of development in a footballer’s life. Even if they can still grow after the age of 20, this platform is of utmost importance and our league coaches cannot afford to miss it.”
“If the club coaches can scout talent at this tournament and get the boys in their teams, it will then be easy for me as coach to choose these players for the national team. So come out to the tournament, pick the talent, groom the boys and we will have a larger pool to choose from when it comes to the national team,” said Mannetti.
A number of players of the current crop of the Brave Warriors team are products of the annual competition, which is proof that the competition is meaningful. Mannetti shares the same sentiments saying it is a good thing to see that the boys are going through the channels.
The Warriors’ left back and reliable defender Riaan !Hananub was 18 years old in 2013 when he first tasted competitive football in his career at the annual tournament. Leading the Otjozondjupa region that ultimately won the competition that year, !Hananub claims this was the most defining moment in his football career.
“As a boy then, this was a very special moment for me. It was my first time playing at such a tempo and it just felt big for me,” said !Hananub.
After the competition, !Hananub played for the first division team Touch and Go in his home town before joining Orlando Pirates. The composed left-footed speedy player joined the Braves in 2016 and has since become a favourite for his wide runs and compactness behind.
“Playing in the Namibian Newspaper Cup played a very important role in my life. The young boys participating in the tournament this year should take this opportunity seriously. The tournament will expose you and you never know who is watching. So do your best,” !Hananub advised young players.
Mannetti added that 12 to 13 players who represented the country at the just ended African Nations Championship (CHAN) tournament, which saw the country, bow out in the quarter-final came through the newspaper cup.
Another player who rose to fame during the annual tournament is Roger Katjiteo. In 2009, a 17 year old Katjiteo carried Otjozondjupa to victory at The Namibian Newspaper Cup. With an impressive tally of 8 goals, Katjiteo scooped the Top Goal Scorer of the Tournament accolade and became a must-have for Namibian Premier League teams.
“I was young then and just wanted to score goals. I should say that it was a competition that got me exposed to bigger clubs,” said Katjiteo.
It was not long before the striker was scouted by Black Africa and later moved to Botswana where he played for a single season and returned to wear the Tigers’ shirt.
Now featuring in the national team, Katjiteo says his footballing career was partly born by the Namibian Newspaper Cup and wishes to see more competitions of the same genre in the country to develop football.
This year in Katima Mulilo, defending champions Otjozondjupa Region will kick off the defense of the tournament against arch rivals Khomas, Kunene and the Kavango West Regions in group A. The host region Zambezi will play Erongo, Omusati and Omaheke Regions in group B while Oshikoto, Oshana and Hardap will rub shoulder in group C. Ohangwena, Kavango East and //Karas Region have been drawn to battle it out in group D.
Otjozondjupa won the last year edition in Swakopmund defeating then hosts Erongo 2-1 and started their defense in earnest in group A together with rivals Kunene, Khomas and Kavango East.
Highlighting another important aspect of the competition, Mannetti added that the tournament will be a great platform for selection for the National Under-20 team. “So the boys must take this platform serious because there are so many doors that could open.”
The annual boys’ under-20 regional football four- day spectacle event for the first time has also introduced an under-20 netball competition for all 14 regions.
This move has been highly received by the sport fraternity especially the netball arena that has been dormant for some time.