WITH English Premier League’s (EPL) Manchester United Football Club (FC) having deploying their top Africa-based chief scout Omar Scilla, to the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Cup spectacle currently underway, Confidente’s, John Tuerijama (JT) spoke to former Brave Warriors sensation Collin Benjamin (CB) about the regional event.
Benjamin, who plied his trade in Germany, is considered as one of Namibia’s successful player who has not just hanged his playing boots, but is ploughing back in the community.
JT: Do you think the Cosafa Cup has grown in leaps and bounds now that teams such as EPL outfit Manchester United dispatched their top Africa-based chief scout Omar Scilla?
CB: Certainly the progress, longevity and consistency of the competition have shown that it is changing lives and creating opportunities. Our pride at the moment, Peter Shalilule, is evident of this. For Manchester United to deploy their scout to access is surely testimony that the competition is taken serious.
JT: Could the COSAFA Cup be the gate-way for many football players wanting to ply their trade in Europe and eventually make it to bigger clubs like Manchester, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea?
CB: COSAFA Cup is definitely a very good platform to showcase talent. It is yet to be seen for a player to make the step to the clubs mentioned, as those clubs are the pinnacle of world football. There are many routes that lead to Rome.
JT: Looking at the African players in the English Premier League (EPL) there was in the past few seasons no players from SADC, what do you think are the reasons for SADC player’s failure to make it in the EPL?
CB: Like I alluded in previous answer, the level of the EPL is of such that the players making it there are ones that made their marks already in other leagues in and around Europe on a consistent basis. We should work on consistency to enable us to dominate. Once you dominate your environment, you will catch the eye to be elevated. In short, we are not dominant enough on the pitch
JT: Most African players who made their mark in the EPL mainly hail from West Africa and a few from north Africa what are some of the attributes that work in those players favour in the EPL league?
CB: They have rooted the attributes of total hunger for success, phenomenal work-or-die culture and mastered the art of dominance on the soccer field.
JT: A country such as South Africa and Zambia are renowned for having the talent but their players are not really keen on playing in Europe .Could that be attributed to a lack of self- confidence, lack of support in your opinion?
CB: Support from whom? The South Africans earn very good money and they often would post the question ‘why’ they should move elsewhere. Zambia has quite a few players in Scandinavia and Russia. From SADC I would say the Zambian are closest to showing attributes of total-hunger-to-succeed mentality.
JT: Looking at the Namibian players only a handful like yourself, Eliphas Shivute, Razundara Tjikuzu and Quinton Jacobs made it to the European shores, what do you think is the challenge facing the current crop of players to not make it beyond the continental borders?
CB: I am not exactly sure but the names of players you mentioned are guys that took their destiny into their own hands. They went to the scouts as scouts never really came to our shores. Nauseb, Ouseb and Kanalelo played for A-list teams (Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns) in South Africa. We need one player to make it to the A-listers so that attention is diverted towards the players. Once that is done, things will change. They should see it as being in it together and continue to nurture their dream and not stop working on it.
JT: As a former professional footballers what is needed to be introduced in the domestic football league so that we can see an exodus of players getting invited for trials beyond Africa and elsewhere?
CB: I think the authorities are doing their part. The league is somehow structured; some of the guys earn money to cover their basics. But I miss commitment and hunger to succeed in many players. You hardly see players jogging to the training grounds. They all get picked up to be chauffeured to training at the Sam Nujoma stadium even though most live in Katutura. This is insane. I don’t think such players will ever be ready when the opportunity arises. Besides, why would I as a spectator come watch you as a player when I see you all the time at the shebeens next to my house?? Change your mentality if you want to succeed.
JT: You have had an illustrious career in Germany, now back home you are a businessman. How important is education to a footballer?
CB: Needless to say how important that is. You can have a PHD from the University of ‘LIFE’ too. Just respect it and be willing to learn all the time.
JT: Do you think Brave Warriors players can impress at the current COSAFA Cup and perhaps get invited to attend trials not just in South Africa but elsewhere in the world now that most football seasons are concluded?
CB: Why not? The platform is there. They just need to seize it.
JT: Despite the outcome between Namibia and Zambia on Saturday, what is your impression going forward for Mannetti’s players who still faced with the 2019 African Nations qualifiers later this year?
CB: He commands respect from his players, they have been together for a while now, and generally you have an impression as on outsider that the spirit, cohesion and atmosphere is top in the team. He is keeping them well on their toes and I think they should continue writing their own chapter in the history books of Namibian football. If one player makes the A-list teams in South Africa or elsewhere they would have done their part too well!!!! Zambia was never easy. They will have to go to their limits. Each and every one…..
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