The Minister of Sport, Youth and National Service, Erastus Uutoni, has implored leaders of sport federations/associations to stop fighting one another to the detriment of sport in the country.
Uutoni made the plea in Windhoek on Monday during a year-end meeting with leaders of various sport codes, where he also called for diversity that accurately reflects Namibia’s demographic in all sport codes.
His comments come as the Namibia Football Association (NFA) is struggling to deal with a long-running power tussle pitting the General Secretary, Barry Rukoro, and President, Frans Mbidi.
Tension has also threatened to boil over in rugby because of the mistrust between the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) and the Namibia Rugby Limited (NRL).
NRU is the mother body of all rugby activities, while the NRL is a commercial arm that was created to source funds for rugby.
It was intended that the NRL would report to the mother body (NRU), but the NRL has apparently usurped the role of NRU in controlling international funds received for Namibian rugby and other activities such as the men’s senior rugby team, the high performance center, the Namibia Rugby Premier League (NRPL), and supervising NRU Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mervin Green.
“Some sport codes are family sports and some are being undercut by infighting and conflict. Know that you are fighting for something that belongs to the nation, not you. You are just destroying the nation,” the minister said.
“NFA is fighting and now the boys (U23 soccer team) did not go to Angola to play (AFCON qualifiers) because of the infighting.
“You find the NRU fighting here and the NRL also fighting there. We (ministry) just spoke to them (NRU and NRL) and things appear to be moving smoothly. But, look at people fighting; look at their ages. Why fight today while tomorrow you are pensioner. It is not encouraging.”
Since independence, sport codes like cricket and rugby have been dominated by white Namibians which resulted in the codes losing sponsorship from MTC after leaders in both codes were accused of failing to implement a system that recruited and encouraged a more demographically attuned system.
In 2013, Cricket Namibia which had enjoyed N$2,5 million in annual funding from MTC for 10 years, saw its sponsorship dry up after management at the mobile operator expressed concerns with the speed of transformation (equal representation) in the sport.
Rugby also lost its sponsorship in 2012, after MTC raised the same concerns as expressed for Cricket Namibia.
In his end-of-year speech, the minister said it is shocking to see players of one race selected for teams as if there are no other qualified people.
“Even boxing has one colour. Maybe we (parents) do not motivate our kids to take up sports or expose them to different sports as we should,” Uutoni said.
The minister encouraged federations and associations to redouble their efforts in order for 2019 to be a better year than 2018.
“This year, Jonas Junias Jonas won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. Helalia Johannes also won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
“Paulus Ambunda won a world title, the International Boxing Organisation (IBO) Super-Bantamweight title and now the people of Singapore know where Namibia is. The people of Singapore used to ask where Namibia is, “Is it a province of South Africa? They know better now, thanks to Ambunda,” Uutoni said.
The sports minister urged sport codes to start with new initiatives to raise funds, adding that gone are the days when federations/associations would solely depend on government for funding.
“They must market themselves and be more innovative and creative to unearth needed funds. They also need more work on getting ticket paying fans out to the games and matches.”