… As U-17 competition flourishes, while NPL remains in limbo
By John Tueriajama
THE 2017 Under-17 Skorpion Zinc Cup, which will see teams from all 14 regions clashing in a mouth-watering competition that is expected to unearth new talent for the nation, has kicked off with trial matches taking place in the Khomas region last weekend.
The tournament slated to take place from 9 to 12 September in the capital, after trial matches are completed in all 14 regions, ahead of regional teams being chosen.
The U-17 spectacle is flourishing with the help of a hefty N1.4 million sponsorship from Skorpion Zinc, the eight largest zinc mine in the world, while the Namibia Premier League is still a non-starter, due to ongoing funding woes. The Khomas regional trials were held at the Namibia Football Association (NFA) Technical Field last weekend, with Khomas U-17 head coach, Herman Naobeb, saying this week that all 33 players, who were initially selected for the regional team to play in the Skorpion Zinc Cup come from the Khomas Youth League.
A total of 120 boys attended the trials. However, Naobeb expressed his disappointment over the omission of talented and skilful players from the HopSol Youth League, due to a dispute with the Namibia Football Association.
The squad will eventually be trimmed to 22 players, he added.
The Khomas team is set to play friendly matches this weekend against second division outfit Namib Eagles, either at the NFA Technical Centre or at the Augustenium Secondary School.
Asked about the Khomas team’s strength, ahead of the Skorpion Zinc Cup, Naobeb said their competitiveness definitely lies in their midfield and defence.
He said that the team has skilful players, including the likes of Tulela Shipanga (midfielder), Denzyl Narib (midfielder) and Pitsy Amseb, who had all returned from the Westphalia, Germany recently, after touring with the national under-17 team.
Khomas, who were the maiden Skorpion Zinc Cup winners when the tournament was held in Keetmanshoop in 2013, are pitted against Erongo, Oshikoto and Ohangwena in Group B this year.
“Oshikoto beat us in the semi-final of the 2015 edition. My objective is to win the competition this year, and that will surely not be a walk in the park, as there are regions such as Kunene and Otjozondjupa, who boast nationally capped players in their line-ups,” said Naobeb.
He said due to the Grade 10 learners being busy with their exams, the team will only train on Wednesdays, until the examinations are completed.
Former Khomas U-17 coach, James Blitz, who is now the assistant coach to premier league outfit Tura Magic, said the region is known as the “Brazilians” of the tournament, because of its skilful players and flair.
He said other regions think that Khomas enjoys preferential treatment, compared to other regions, but what makes the regional team different is their style of play and the commitment of both the players and technical staff.
Blitz, who was the coach of the Khomas team that lifted the Skorpion Zinc Cup in 2013, said this had been a great stepping stone in his career.
He also recalled how difficult it was to play against the Erongo team in the final, which was coached by veteran mentor Lucky Shipanga. “Sure, Khomas is the favourite to win the cup (this year), I truly believe we can, and have the talent to bring the cup to Windhoek, as the competition is scheduled for the capital city,” said Blitz.
He said that Naobeb, who was his assistant coach in 2013, has the knowledge and the experience to mentor the team to victory.
At the launch of this year’s edition of the Skorpion Zinc Cup, Vedanta Zinc international Chief Executive Officer, Deshnee Naidoo, explained that company’s philosophy included investing in the education and nurturing of the youth, through sponsoring and supporting various activities that encourage and build young people.
This year’s draw sees Omusati, Otjozondjupa, Omaheke and Kunene competing in Group A, while Ohangwena, Khomas, Oshikoto, Erongo and Kavango East are in Group B.
Group C will see clashes between Kavango West, Zambezi, Oshana and Hardap.
The group winners will proceed to the semi-finals, while runners-up in Group A and B will clash to determine the fourth team to go through to the knockout phase.
Omusati are the defending champions, having won the 2014 and 2015 editions, respectively. The tournament was not played last year.
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