By Michael Uugwanga
Injury prone goalkeeper Lloyd Kazapua is favourites for the Brave Warriors number one jersey following his good display against Ghana in an in international friendly match that was played in Dubai, 10 June, in which Namibia won 1-0 as a warm up to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Namibia are in Group D at the 32nd AFCON finals and kick off their tournament against Morocco on June 23.
Namibia will take on South Africa on June 28 before facing Cote d’Ivoire in their final group game on July 1 at Cairo International Stadium.
Kazapua is also set to become the first Brave Warriors ‘keeper to appear at two consecutive major football tournaments as first choice if he managed to get the nod ahead of Max Mbaeva and Ratanda Mbazuvara.
Kazapua was Namibia’s first choice ‘keeper at the 2018 African Nations Championship, known as the Total African Nations Championship (also referred to as CHAN 2018), ahead of Edward Maova and Charles Uirab, despite missing three matches in the qualifiers due to injuries, notably the second leg match against Zimbabwe on 23 July 2017 in Harare in which Maova was between the sticks, which saw Namibia winning 5-4 on penalties and the two leg ties against Comoros which Namibia won 3-2 on aggregate to qualify to CHAN that was hosted in Morocco.
At CHAN, a tournament for only local-based players, Kazapua regained his position as he started all Brave Warriors matches until at the quarter-finals were Namibia lost to host nation Morocco 2-0.
Nobody in the country anticipated that Kazapua will be considered for the 2019 AFCON as he did not play a single match in the qualifiers due to injuries and game time at club level, following his move to Highlands Park in the ABSA Premiership where he failed to break into the first team at Highlands Park, which saw him loaned out to First Division outfits Maccabi FC also in South Africa.
Virgil Vries who was axed by coach Ricardo Mannetti when he announced his final 23-men squad for the AFCON, despite Vries playing a big role in the qualifiers that saw him only missing the final match against Zambia in March this year, due to lack of game time at former club Kaizer Chiefs in which Namibia were hammered 4-1 by Zambia, came as a surprised to many after he failed to make the squad.
Mbaeva who was helpless against Zambia in Lusaka is expected to give Kazapua a run for his money, two ‘keepers that knows each other very well during their stay at African Stars, which saw Kazapua moving to Tigers as he found it tough to compete against Mbaeva.
Kazapua however returned to Stars in 2015 after Mbaeva moved to South Africa to play at Golden Arrows in the ABSA Premiership.
Many local pundits have predicted Kazapua to take the number one jersey at the AFCON ahead of Mbaeva and Mbazuvara.
Former Brave Warriors and African Stars goalkeeper Athiel Mbaha who was Namibia’s first choice ‘keeper at the 2008 AFCON in Ghana feels that Kazapua deserves his place in the national team.
“Yes, why not (Kazapua). He has improved his goalkeeping position and I even trained him at Stars. I am the one that pushed him for CHAN, which caught the eyes of clubs in South Africa. I believe the chosen ‘keeper should start. Vries is also a good goalie but the technical team have made their choice,” Mbaha said.
Another former Brave Warriors great Michael Pienaar who was also at the 2008 AFCON in Ghana is very much convinced that Kazapua is the right man to be between the sticks.
“It is very sad to see Vries not making it. The coaches have their reasons. Lloyd (Kazapua),” said Pienaar.
Former Brave Gladiators no nonsense defender Julien Garises has put her weight on Kazapua to start at the AFCON.
“I will go with Kazapua because during friendlies he has showed that he can be trusted. As much we would had liked for Vries, only certain players are selected.Mbaeva might not be mentally fit after the roasting of Zambia,” Garises said.