As coach Ricardo Mannetti sets his eyes to fulfill is contractual obligations to qualifying for the African Cup of Nation in Cameroon next year and penning down his ‘last tick’, the technician says his mission is bigger than the contract.
In the run for qualification, Namibia recently got impressive back-to-back wins against Mozambique in a thrilling display of resilience and the will to win. Tuesday night’s win cemented a good step away and placed the Brave Warriors Afcon dreams in sight.
It was Highlands Park power-horse Peter Shalulile who split the sides before the final whistle in the 72nd-minute to place the Braves en route to the team’s ‘10 points’ mission.
It was a do or die match not only for the players but also for the coach who has a contract with the Afcon qualification box still to tick off.
But while the contract may be seen as the Mannetti’s evaluation tool, to the coach the paper is secondary to the mission.
He says, at this point, the contract does not even come to mind as his mission is bigger than the contract.
“The contract does not come to mind. It is there but it is secondary to the mission that I have. The contract is a personal thing, but the mission that I’m on is for the nation. This mission is bigger than my contract. This mission is bigger than me and any document. It is for the players. It is the project that we have started with in 2013. So the contract is the least of my concerns at the moment,” said Mannetti.
The contract, which comes to an end in July next year has already honoured some of the key targets set for Mannetti.
The Braves, under the stewardship of Mannetti and second in charge Ronnie Kanalelo has been able to tick off Cosafa in 2015 when they floored Mozambique with a deserved 2-0 win in the final of the regional championship at the Moruleng Stadium in South to claimed a first ever Southern African title.
In 2016, the Braves did another ticking, this time the 2016 Cosafa Castle Cup Plate trophy when they beat Zambia 1-0 in the final at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek.
Early this year, Namibia’s late show put them into CHAN quarterfinals where they were bolstered out of the competition by Zambia. The team, who were the underdogs in the competition proved to perform beyond expectation and automatically ticking off the CHAN box.
Now with the introduction of former player and coach Collin Benjamin to the technical circle of the Brave Warriors, one can certainly notice growth in the pursuit for the next three points that would guarantee them tickets to Cameroon.
Three to go…
The Braves have two games to go, at home against Guinea Bissau on 16 November and in Zambia on 22 March 2019. Guinea Bissau currently heads Group K with seven points, with Namibia having levelled up after Saturday’s game to also tally seven.
“My preferred situation would be to get the three points at home which I think is a huge possibility.
Should we qualify for the Cameroon, this will be the last tick- then it is mission accomplished,” said Mannetti.
“That is something that drives me every day; to make sure that we qualify. On a personal note it will mean a lot for me. But the players’ determination to qualify is even bigger than mine.
So while it will be big for me, it will mean so much more to the players, the association, and the fans.”
After a sizzling win on Tuesday night, a jubilant Mannetti praised his players for the resilience and determination to win. It is back to the drawing board as the team looks forward to lay ambush Guinea Bissau in four weeks’ time.
“We need to keep our head on the ground. There is still room for improvement in certain areas and we will work on those areas before the game. But the passion to want to qualify should remain. t is irrelevant of who will make us qualify, because this is a collective fight.”
Mannetti took a swipe at critics who bring a negative taste to the team spirit saying the duty of the fans is to support the 11 men on the field, regardless of whether their favorite player is on or not.
“I fail to understand that there are still fans that are worried about formation and selection. That should be secondary. The priority for us should be those 11 players on the field, do they want it? They should want to win. Leave the formation and technical aspects to the coaches. Just come and support the players.
Let us enjoy these victories. The team doesn’t need politics, it doesn’t need negativity. We need positivity.”
Namibia currently sits on position 116th of the FIFA World Ranking, and more wins would only place the country to a sub-100 ranking, which is another promise Mannetti has to fulfil by the end of his tenure.
The next FIFA rankings are scheduled for 25 October.