WITH the national under-17 football team doing extremely well at the ongoing Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Championship in Mauritius, it is important to start thinking of what it would mean for Namibia if they were to be crowned champions. From our past experiences, we should be able to obtain some clarity on how we can prepare for this possibility. It remains a concern that in 2016, the national under-17 team won the regional cup but failed to defend their title the following year because there was no funding to send the boys to defend the title. We have also come to learn that it took a considerably long period of time before the 2016 champions were remunerated for clinching the regional cup. But now looking at the current under-17 team’s performance and them beating Seychelles in their opening encounter before going on to defeat Botswana to secure a semi-final showdown against Angola, it is testimony that these boys are determined to come back home with the trophy. In this context, it would have been better for us to give the players the incentives needed to boost their moral at a level that prompts them to do even better than they are currently doing and appraise their chances of winning the cup. Even if we strongly appreciate the mentoring by the Football Association Secretary- General, Barry Rukoro, on the importance of what it means to represent ones country, incentive in terms of remuneration remains a key element in encouraging the players to do well. These players come from families that are struggling financially and the parents anticipate that the boys will bring home something after successfully having represented their country. It would also be a welcome development if the association assists these players with school fees, uniforms and any other school materials. This also could be extended to players who are academically good who can be assisted in furthering their studies at higher educational institutions such as NUST, UNAM or IUM when they finish Grade 12. On a broader scale, we as a nation need to start thinking of how we can ensure that the current national under-17 team attend training camps regularly and how we can have them gradually elevated to the national under- 20 football team. For this to happen, it is important that we keep these players as a unit and have them exposed to more friendly matches against their regional peers. Having seen the likes of Killian Mbappe at the 2018 Russia World Cup, we have seen that it is possible to groom these young players. I am worried that in two-years’ time the current players in the Brave Warriors set-up will be a no-show and that is why it’s important that we keep these players by all means. Countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa are investing heavily in their junior players and have established various national teams for international friendly matches, CHAN and AFCON competition.
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