2006 was a year of mixed success with some sportsmen and women holding Namibiaâ??s name high on the international scene, while some sport codes were dragged through the mud by power-hungry administrators.
Of our success stories, boxers Japhet Uutoni, Paulus â??The Hitmanâ? Moses and athlete Helaria Johannes topped the list.
Uutoni gave a brilliant and courageous performance to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, despite having injured both his hands before the final. But he wanted to win the gold medal so desperately for his country that he fought through the pain barrier to achieve his dream. He made his country proud and shortly after the fight he was taken to hospital to have his hands operated on. They donâ??t call him the â??Lion of the Northâ? for nothing, and Uutoni duly went on to win the Sportsman of the Year award for the second year in a row.
Paulus The Hitman Moses
Paulus â??the Hitmanâ? Moses notched up four more victories to remain unbeaten after 18 professional fights. In the process he beat Mihaila Mutu of France to win the WBA Intercontinental Lightweight title, to add to his WBA Pan African Lightweight title.
He was in great form against Mutu with his sharp jab and fast combinations, and was a comfortable winner on points over 12 rounds.
In between The Hitman also beat Mishack Kondwane of Zimbabwe, Siviwe Ntshinghila of South Africa and Frederic Gosset of France and he is now on the verge of getting a Top Ten ranking by the WBA.
What will 2007 bring? The Hitman already has a fight lined up in Monte Carlo in February, and if he wins this one, the sky is the limit.
He is a model professional â?? he is talented, hardworking and hungry â?? and with a bit of luck, a world title shot might come his way soon.
Helaria Johannes took road running by storm in Southern Africa in 2006. She served notice in April when she won the Two Oceans 21km Marathon in a new record time, beating the Commonwealth Games marathon winner in the process.
She followed this up with victories in the Nedbank Johannesburg 10km race, the Spar Ladies 10km Road Race in Cape Town, the City to City 20km Race between Pretoria and Johannesburg and the South African 10km Championships in Stellenbosch.
On the local scene she won the Old Mutual Victory Races Series for the second year in a row and was a deserved winner of the Sportswoman of the Year award.
Helaria has the world at her feet and more titles (and record times) should come her way in 2007.
The Namibian rugby team
The Namibian rugby team qualified for the 2007 Rugby World Cup for the third time when they beat Morocco at home and away in November.
Namibia will now play against hosts France, Argentina, Ireland and Georgia in Pool D of the World Cup in September this year.
It was a great achievement, but Namibiaâ??s preparations might be hampered by politics again with the post of national coach coming under the spotlight. Local coach Johan Venter was in charge during the qualifying rounds, but Namibia Rugby Union president Dirk Conradie told Namibia Sport that they might look at appointing a new coach, especially since many of the senior players felt they could not learn anything more from Venter. Conradie later denied this in a local daily, saying that Namibia Sport tried to sensationalise the story, but we stick to what we reported and will watch this space with interest in the coming months.
Cricket, soccer and cycling
The Namibian cricket team and their Zimbabwean import Tatenda Taibu.
Namibia has started the 2006/07 season off in great style and were lying first and second in the South African SAA Challenge and Cup competitions respectively.
A lot of their success can be attributed to the appointment of Taibu, who, after a hesitant start blossomed with the bat, with a top score of 95 not out against Gauteng.
But the exciting thing is that the competition for places is strong as a new generation of youngsters are putting in some excellent performances. Players who we can expect to here a lot more of in 2007 include Dawid Botha, Nicolaas Scholtz, Henno Prinsloo, Louis Klazinga, LP van der Westhuizen and Tobie Verwey.
Namibiaâ??s new soccer coach Ben Bamfuchile has had mixed results since taking over the hotseat in July 2006, with two victories and four defeats.
Namibia lost to the Seychelles on penalties, beat Malawi 3-2, lost 1-0 to South Africa, lost 3-2 to the DR Congo, beat Ethiopia 1-0 and lost 3-2 to Zimbabwe.
Still, Namibia is lying second in its African Cup of Nations group and with some exciting talent coming through and matches coming up against Libya (home and away), DR Congo (home) and Ethiopia (away), Ben might still be able to pull off a few surprises.
If available, players who can play a big role in the Brave Warriorsâ?? success include Heini Isaacks, Quinton Jacobs, Richard Gariseb, Hartman Toromba, Letu Shatimuene, Rudolph Bester, Brian Gurirab and Congo Ngatjizeko. Namibia however suffered a big blow when captain and striker Henrico Botes received a six-match ban for spitting at an Ethiopian opponent. It was quite a harsh penalty, since Botes retaliated after being spat at first, and Namibia will definitely miss his combative presence in the strikerâ??s role.
Look out for Namibiaâ??s exciting cyclists in 2007. Dan Craven led the way with a silver medal at the 2006 African Cycling Championships, but Mannie Heymans, Erik Hoffmann, Marc Bassingthwaighte and Arno Viljoen all excelled in international events in South Africa and Europe. Add to that some more exciting young cyclists coming through like Ermin van Wyk, Jaco Blaauw, Jan Hendrik Verdoes, Lotto Petrus and Heletje van Staden and the future looks bright for this sport code.
Kangueehi hangs on
Administrative squabbles within athletics and soccer brought international shame to Namibia in 2006.
Athletics Namibia president Alpha Kangueehi refused to resign after ANâ??s regions issued a vote of no confidence in his leadership, which was endorsed by Minister of Sport, John Mutorwa. Kangueehi however refused to go, saying that the vote was unconstitutional and later got an ally in the International Athletics Associations Federation (IAAF) African representative Leonard Chuene, who accused the Namibian government of interfering in ANâ??s affairs. Next thing, Mutorwa received a letter from IAAF headquarters in Zurich, warning that Namibia would be suspended from international athletics if Kangueehi were not reinstated. Mutorwa, however, replied that the government had not removed him, and at the last count, Kangueehi seemed to once again be in power.
The saga has become a real mess and an international embarrassment for Namibia and hopefully the regions will do the right thing at ANâ??s next elective congress on March 29.
Stormy Ride for Soccer
Namibian soccer went through a stormy ride in 2006, starting off with an attempted coup at Soccer House by an interim committee led by Hendrik Dawids and Anton van Wyk in June.
The NFA leadership under acting president John Muinjo managed to survive, with the governmentâ??s backing, while FIFA then came to the rescue with their long-awaited Road Map for Namibian soccer.
Regional elections got off to a bumpy start when the Independent Electoral Commission refused to accept Anton van Wyk as chairman of the Khomas Region due to voting irregularities, and Peter van Wyk eventually won after a second vote.
The final presidential elections on October 28 however turned into a farce when a fight broke out between Otjozondjupa delegates, which led to Manfred Boois falling out of his wheelchair and breaking his leg.
John Muinjo eventually won the presidential elections, beating Hendrik Dawids by 9 votes to 6, but Namibiaâ??s image suffered further damage, with FIFAâ??s special advisor Jerome Champagne saying that he had never seen anything like it before.
Wouldnâ??t it be great if we could have an incident-free year off the pitch and some success on it in 2007? Hereâ??s hoping for a successful New Year!