By Dino Ballotti
PARDON my absence from this column, when life gets in the way we tend to neglect the things that bring us joy and satisfaction. Which brings me to my opinion for today’s read, why do we neglect the simple things that bring us pleasure? Why do so many of us neglect the very roots of our upbringing?
I would like you to think back to your childhood where each and every one of us played the beautiful game. Whether it was in the street with a makeshift football / tennis ball, in the school playground during break time or if you were skilled enough, playing for a club where you ran your 2 laps and then played ‘ball’. Years gone by there was no money in local football, players joined clubs that made them feel welcome, not the ones that offered the best remuneration. Transfers took place over night and if your best mates played for BMC, you too played for BMC. Whether you supported Flames from Katutura, perhaps to watch the great Oscar Mengo, Young One’s from Khomasdal, Chelsea from Grootfontein, or Benfica from the garden town of Tsumeb, there was always a football team that demanded a following.
Once you intersect how far we have come in our very short 23 years of independence you will be quite pleasantly surprised. Take the capital city of Windhoek as our case in point. There is an u9, u11 and an u13 primary schools league of which the majority of the schools have at least 2 active teams participating. Then there is the high school league, which boasts the u15, u17 and super league age groups, not forgetting that there is also a girl’s category. You will then find the Namibian Football Association’s Windhoek based youth leagues which consist of u9, u11, u13, u15, u17 and u19 – a fantastic development set-up which has been in full swing for the past two years now. Not to forget Wendy’s social league where a number of corporate and social teams participate on Saturday and Sunday mornings. We then have the NFA Galz and Goals programme covering female age groups from u9 to u15 and a Women’s Super League which consists of 6 competitive teams in Windhoek alone. Then there is the Khomas second division with 11 active sides, the Southern Stream first division consisting of 12 clubs, and of course the Namibian Premier League with 8 Windhoek based clubs from a possible 12. You also have an Old Boys League, Bush League and the very proud Samora Machel Informal Settlements League in Havana (in Katutura, Windhoek).
In the 061 we have football in abundance. I fondly recall two Saturday’s past where I decided to go watch some bush football at the John ya Otto Stadium in Wanaheda. I must say that it was a breath of fresh air from the usual NPL or 2nd division matches I normally attend. The passion of the players were second to none and I was mightily impressed with the fair play on exhibit, over the top ‘6 stud tackles’ were the order of the day yet no complaining, no arguing with the makeshift referee or even the linesman’s who used a stick as his offside flag. The spectators that came out in numbers surrounded the field and surprisingly enough cheered for both the home side and travelling team from Swakopmund. I was really pleased that I attended and in the process even scouted a few potential recruits for the new season!
We need the players and spectators of years past to fall back in love with local football. Yes, the quality may not always be of the highest standard, and yes, games may be scheduled for 12 and only start at 3 but that is the beauty of local is lekker. Football unites and we as a proud nation need to realize that by being Namibian we need to support Namibian. I always felt a proud man wearing my Watford F.C replica jerseys until one Saturday morning I saw a father and son both wearing the mighty Blue Ingwenyama Tigers jerseys. I told myself that when my lighty comes I too will match up with not a Juventus or Watford jersey but a local jersey, whichever club I may find myself with, my lighty and I will proudly show where we are from!
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