“In 1991 we played in our first world cup and we were the only team that was not ranked at the time. We managed to finish 11 out of 22 countries. After our good showing we were invited by New Zealand to play in the Tri-Nations tournament,” said Smit, who is also the International Netball Federation (INF) Africa Regional Development Manager.
Besides being a formidable force in the world in the 90s, Namibia has found itself falling behind in the pecking order, slipping below countries such as Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Swaziland, who were once the whipping girls of Namibian netball teams years ago.
Namibia and other countries such as Bermuda, Cayman Islands, India, Maldives, Vanuatu, St Kitts &Nevis, Israel and Tonga will only be ranked once they have played eight international matches.
Australia is the top ranked team in the world followed by New Zealand, while South Africa are ranked fifth, ahead of Malawi in sixth, Uganda 13th, Zambia 15th, Zimbabwe 17th, Botswana 18th and Swaziland in 30th position, to make up Africa’s ranked teams.
In 2015, Namibia was ranked 32nd in the world.
Smit, a former goal attacker, played alongside her two siblings, Emsie and Rachel Esterhuizen, forming a formidable partnership that was marvelous to watch.
Emsie was awarded with the highest goal average of the 8th World Netball Championship in 1991.
“In 1993 we went to play Malawi in their own backyard and we beat them, but today they are highly ranked. Had we had the same team as then we would had have been ranked even further than Malawi,” said Smit, adding that the current leadership at Netball Namibia (NN) has failed the sport code.
“The problem is with the management. If you do not have competent management or right leadership, the sport will not go forward. We have some of the best netball players in the world, but the problem is bad governance.”
Former national team coach, Nico Smit, who was coach from 1978 to 1993, branded the current generation of players as spoiled brats.
Smit said the current crop of players have no pride and determination.
“In the past, the players used to sell fat cakes, clothes and many other things to raise money for them to go to the world cup and at the world championship. Today, the players are demanding money and to be treated special.
“In the past, players used to buy their own socks and shoes, but not these ones. These players of today are even lazy to train,” said Smit, who is a DTA Member of Parliament.
He also blasted the current leadership at Netball Namibia, saying they need to pull up their socks.
“If you have bad administrators you will not prosper. In the past, the leadership, clubs and players were working together, unlike today.
“I do not even know who the current coach of the national team is, if you ask me. In the past, we used to have a national league, and that was so important for us to select a strong team.”
In 2015, NN appointed Lydia Mutenda as President and Imelda Nerongo as Secretary General.
The two leaders have so far failed to secure a sponsorship for NN despite numerous promises made last year and early this year.
The International Netball Federation, to which NN is affiliated, said this week that it is still to receive any official letter from the NN leadership or from the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC) confirming the change in leadership at NN.
In February this year, NN was supposed to hold its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Tsumeb, but it was called off due to lack of funds.
Joan Smit revealed that NN is eligible to apply for a development grant through INF’s Net Effect program, once the NN leadership presents its future plans.
Net Effect is the INF’s global small grants scheme based on the philosophy of ‘local drive, global impact’, which is the belief that strong, effectively run, proactive national netball associations are essential to the sustainable growth of the sport locally, nationally, regionally and globally.
The only netball league that is active in the country at the moment, besides the Bank Windhoek Schools Netball Super League, is the Khomas Netball Region League that started this month.
The Khomas Netball Region League is only contested by teams from Windhoek, while the Oshakati Netball League that started last year, stopped before the conclusion of the league due to financial constraints.
“The INF has not been informed about any changes in the current leadership of Netball Namibia. The INF is only aware of the active Netball leagues in schools and universities in Namibia. The Namibian universities participated in the World University Netball Games in Miami last year.
“The INF does not fund any member as such. However, the INF makes a development fund called Net Effect available to the regional body, in this case, Africa Netball. Namibia Netball as a member could apply to Africa Netball in order to benefit from the fund,” said the INF’s Smit.
The INF Africa head stated that Namibia Netball can request her services for free, to assist the local netball governing body, as other African countries do on a daily basis.
Ms. Smit also raised concerns about Namibia’s lack of recent participation in international competitions that have resulted in Namibia losing its ranking this year.
“It is indeed a concern that Namibia lost its world ranking due to a lack of international participation. The sport governing body in the countries usually conducts an investigation in cases where complaints/ concerns are received from its members. The INF can only intervene on request by the sport authorities in the country,” she said.
NN Secretary General, Nerongo, said they have appointed University of Namibia (UNAM) netball coach, Manuelle ‘Mamsie’ Tjivera, in an acting capacity.
Nerongo also said that they are still busy searching for a sponsor.
“We will let you know once we get a sponsor. The reason why we have not been active at national level is because we do not have funds,” she said.