NAMIBIA’s national men and women’s indoor hockey teams are hard at work preparing for next month’s Indoor World Cup qualifiers in Durban, South Africa.
The president of the Namibia Hockey Union (NHU), Marc Nel as well as both teams’ management yesterday paid a courtesy call on their main sponsor MTC to update them about their preparations and longer term plans.
Nel said both teams were hard at work preparing for the qualifiers which take place from 15 to 18 April, and that they hoped to qualify for next year’s Indoor World Cup.
“Our women’s side is the current Africa indoor champion, while our men’s side lost to South Africa by a solitary goal in the final of the World Cup qualifier. We think that both our teams are well prepared and hopefully they will realise our goal of qualifying for the Indoor World Cup in Antwerp, Belgium in February 2022,” he said.
“Besides that our men’s outdoor team is organising a test series against South Africa, which will hopefully take place in Johannesburg in May, where they will play a minimum of two tests. It will also form part of our preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations which take place in Accra, Ghana in January next year,” he added.
Nel said that hockey in Namibia had grown a lot in recent years, mainly due to improved infrastructure.
“Hockey has exploded in Namibia since the first artificial turfs were laid down here in Windhoek. At the moment we’ve got three artificial turfs while the Namibia Hockey Union itself is in the process of finalising its own turf. The construction has been finalised, but the carpet cannot be finished off until all the Covid regulations are back to normal again,” he said.
Last October, the NHU and MTC signed a sponsorship agreement of N$3 million over three years, and yesterday, John Ekongo of MTC said they hoped to see a good return on their investment.
“We’ve been very specific as far as our contract is concerned and we made it clear its no longer just about participation, its about participation with an objective which is to qualify for international tournaments, and hopefully that will include the ultimate one, the world cup.
Ekongo said they also wanted to see development taking place within hockey.
“N$3 million over three years is a lot of money and we don’t just want to give money for the sake of giving it; we want to see Namibia being put on the map, as well as a consistency of performance, but we also want to see the sport being developed. When you talk about development, we want to see players eventually getting professional contracts, we want to see development at all levels so that the sport will grow exponentially across the country. Sport is a unifying factor and if we don’t contemplate inclusivity in sport then we are failing in our efforts at nation building,” he said.
The captain of the national women’s team, Maggy Mengo said they were determined to once again qualify for the World Cup, after they shocked South Africa four years ago in Swakopmund to qualify for the 2018 Indoor World Cup in Berlin.
Ï still get goosebumps from that and it was an amazing and a phenomenal experience for Namibia as a whole, as well as for the hockey community. We entered the World Cup as the underdogs, but when we left we were a team not to be underestimated, so we really made our presence felt. We are now ranked tenth in the world and first in Africa, so that’s an amazing achievement, but the pressure is now on us as well,” she said.
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“I believe we can beat South Africa again, but they want to qualify for the World Cup just as much as we do, so it will be a 50-50 game, but we will give it our all, we will go out there and really perform and try to defend our title as a nation,” she added.
DJ Strauss, the goalkeeper of the national men’s team, said they were confident of making it this time.
“We’ve been training since January after we had a short break in December and our side is looking phenomenal. We’ve got quite a younger side than we used to have and the boys are looking absolutely fantastic, they are giving everything three to four times a week, so we are training very hard and not stopping. We have taken it up a gear and I’m quite confident that we are going to make it this time,” he said.