Julinho Sporting are the favourites to gain promotion back to the Namibia Premier League (NPL) when they take on little known club, Ntunguru, from Kavango East in the North-East First Division play-offs this weekend.
The first leg will take place on 18 August at the Rundu Sport Stadium and the return leg is set for the following day at the John Mutorwa Sport Field in Shinyungwe, about 120 km east of Rundu.
Julinho Sporting were relegated from the top flight division after the end of the 2015/2016 season alongside another Rundu based club, United Stars, while Ntunguru were promoted to the North-East First Division in 2016.
While both clubs are confident of gaining promotion to the NPL, which is expected to start at the end of September, it is Julinho Sporting who seem to have an upper hand with their premier league experience.
Julinho Sporting played in the tough Pool B alongside Oshikango Chiefs, former NPL side Cuca Tops, K.K United, Young Rangers and Benfica.
They won Pool B with 23 points from 10 matches, after winning seven matches, losing one and drawing two.
Speaking to the Windhoek Observer, club owner, Nelson Louis, attributed his team’s good performance this season to premier league experience.
“Look, we are favourites to gain promotion. When you look at Ntunguru’s group, there were no teams that are stronger like the ones in our pool, however, football is funny as anything can happen in the play-offs,” Louis said.
Ntunguru, a team formed in 1988, played football in the Kavango second division until 2016 when they gained promotion to the second tier league.
Ntunguru won Pool A with 19 points, two points ahead of Black Hawks. They won five matches, lost one and drew four.
Ntunguru coach, Ndonga Frans, also expressed confidence that his team will be promoted to top flight football.
“We can win the play-offs because I know almost all the players at Julinho Sporting as many of them played together with some of my players before,” Frans said.
He, however, admitted that his team played in a relatively easier group compared to Julinho Sporting.
“After the draw was made, I knew that we were going to win the pool. I have been motivating the players by telling them that this is their only chance for them to play in the premier league,” Frans said.
If Ntunguru are to have any realistic chance against a free-scoring Julinho Sporting side they will need to improve on their defence.
Julinho Sporting scored 24 goals during the campaign compared to Ntunguru’s 13 goals while both teams each allowed eight goals.