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[January 23, 2014]
Namibian Football Fighting for Relevance
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Interest in Namibian football is at an all time low.
And unless a solution to re-ignite the nation's passion for the sport is found soon, the situation looks destined to reach a point of no return.
To make matters worse, the country's football custodians appear to have no remedy for the continued disinterest in the domestic game and continue to pass the buck.
Earlier this week, Namibia Premier League boss Johnny Doëseb expressed dissatisfaction with the sparse crowds at football games this season and again reprimanded the clubs for their failure to improve attendances at their matches.
"We can only do so much. If the teams are not coming to the party, what can you do?" asked Doëseb.
He said the clubs are poorly run, hence their inability to make their profiles that appeal to the public.
"I have told the clubs to get the right people in the right positions in their structures. Teams must get in touch with their support base. Make the community a part of the club. Their support will contribute to your success," Doeseb said.
"Market the brand. You must be passionate about your brand. I am passionate about the Namibia Premier League that's why I'm pushing clubs in this league to do better." He added: "Clubs must start to think outside the box. You can't just say 'I have a match against African Stars'. Why must people show up? Give them a good reason to make them want to come to the stadium." Doëseb believes he runs the NPL in an exemplary manner and that clubs would do well to replicate his modus operandi, He used the under-the-radar appointment of Ivan Tshabalala as the NPL's marketing spearhead as an example for the clubs to follow.
"It will be compulsory to have a PR [public relations] and marketing person or they won't benefit from grants," he said.
Last year, Orlando Pirates coach Ali Akan complained bitterly that it was disheartening for players to be greeted by a handful of fans at a match.
Akan accused the locals of being disloyal, saying they were too pre-occupied with the European and South African leagues to worry about the fortunes of clubs at home.
Around the same time, Southern Stream First Division chairman Kenneth !Gaoseb blamed the Namibia Football Association and called for the dissolution of its entire executive.
He highlighted the absence of commercial and marketing wings in the NFA as the main reason why the country's football is struggling for relevance with the masses.
He argued that would-be investors are put off by the poor administration of the NFA.
QUALITY While it may not rival the top football leagues in the world, the Namibian Premiership is of a relatively good standard and given the right support, it can only get better.
Doëseb believes his amateur league will attain professional status within a couple of seasons.
"Technically we might be lacking a bit but we have talent and very good players. It's just [that we need] a little fine tuning," said Doëseb.
The league's quality will improve drastically if all players became professional footballers instead of holding down day jobs, he added.
"The players must stop working elsewhere and start working as footballers. The top players in the world do not have to deliver furniture the whole day and arrive late for training. Our players must train at least twice a day and they need special programmes in order to improve their level and to maintain it.
RE-ALIGNMENT Doëseb also bemoaned the poor football development structures in the country, saying there was little hope of producing decent players with the current setup.
"We will not go anywhere without empowering our youth. We must take grassroots football very seriously. That's how you produce quality because that's where you lay the foundation for success," he said.
Until recently, the country's primary source of new talent was school sports. But with government having scrapped physical education (PE) from the school curriculum, the numbers of promising youngsters are dwindling every year.
"We need to invest in school sports. In the past, we had good national teams with 90 percent of the players coming through school football," said Doëseb. "What we have now is just rotation of the same players between the clubs. We don't want to see the same face at another club, we want new faces," he said.
Copyright The Namibian. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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