By Victor Angula|
FIFA directed that Namibia will have to play all her international football matches in foreign countries until such a time that her stadiums have been upgraded to modern facilities.
As a result, for the next two years Namibia will play all her home games in South Africa, says the Ministry of Sport.
This situation is unfair to Namibia, because not only is it costly in terms of accommodation and flight tickets to South Africa for home games, it’s also unfair to the team which has to play home games without the advantages of home ground.
The Brave Gladiators’ exit in February from the African Women Cup of Nations when they played to a one-all draw with Zambia in Johannesburg may have been a result of the team having to play the home game away from home.
Thus soccer enthusiasts put the blame for this loss to the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Youth Service for its failure to maintain the Independence Stadium until it fell into a deplorable condition so that FIFA declared it unfit to host FIFA-sanctioned matches.
Ms Jo-Ann Manuel, the deputy director of Marginalised People and Women in Sport, says that the blame should rather be placed on the shoulders of the Namibia Football Association (NFA) for failure to communicate in time about FIFA’s decision to ban the use of Namibia’s stadiums.
“First thing to know is that the stadiums were not declassified because they are deplorable. The stadiums were declassified because there are structural requirements that need to be met, and this [Independence] stadium was built in the early 1970s,” says Ms Manuel.
“For example, our stadium does not have chairs all over. And they [FIFA and CAF] are saying that we can no longer in this era have stadiums where people are sitting on concrete. There must be seats all over.
“The other thing they are saying is that the capacity of our stadium in comparison to its ablution facilities, the ablution facilities are not sufficient. And thirdly, if you go to our changing rooms, the rules say that the changing rooms must have five toilets and five showers.
“Unfortunately when ours was built it only has two toilets and two showers, so it’s not because of the deplorable state of the stadium that we are declassified.
“It’s about structural requirements that were introduced by FIFA and CAF, but unfortunately we never bothered to upgrade our stadium to the new requirements.
“And for us as to whether the Brave Gladiators would have won at home, it’s debatable. Unfortunately that was the outcome of the game. And unfortunately the world will not wait for Namibia to upgrade and meet the requirements. That [situation of playing in South Africa] is something that we have to bear with.
“And we are happy now we at least got 50 million [in the National Budget], hoping that it will be enough to change the situation. But the upgrading of stadiums, after our consultations with those who are experts, it will take us not less than 18 months.
“So the team must be prepared to continue playing home and away games in foreign countries for at least the next two years.”
As to how the Ministry could escape all blame for not having known in time about the declassification of its own stadium, Manuel says that NFA was not honest with them.
“NFA is the one who is supposed to bring the news of the changed requirements to us. We don’t sit in FIFA meetings, we don’t sit in CAF meetings. Surely you will understand that the person who is not communicating [information] to us is NFA. Because these requirements are communicated to members.
“So NFA must accept the blame that if they could have alerted the Government in time, we would have done something. Now when we heard about this declassification of our stadium we went and pleaded with the Government and Cabinet, so now at least we got 50 million.
“If they [NFA] were honest, they would have alerted us long time ago. So it’s the NFA which have failed the nation.”
NFA’s manager for marketing and communication Mr Cassius Moetie promised to provide a response but for four weeks he failed to do so.
In the photo: Namibia’s Independence Stadium.