By Helge Schutz
Ben Bamfuchile is dead. I can hardly believe that this great man is not with us anymore. Forever humble, he chose his own path through the pitfalls and tribulations of Namibian soccer, alienating a lot of people along the way.
But he remained steadfast and stuck to his task at hand. Sometimes he had to make unpopular decisions like dropping star players but he was firm and treated everyone the same. For him it was more important to build a team and a team spirit where all the players were equal.
He dropped key players like Razundara Tjikuzu, George Hummel and Quinton Jacobs when their discipline was lacking and despite a lot of criticism his decisions proved to be right in the end. Tjikuzu and Hummel are not with the team anymore, but Jacobs came back, with a different attitude and made a huge impact during Namibiaâ??s final matches.
â??Quinton is a changed man,â? Ben told me in an interview shortly after Namibiaâ??s historic victory against Ethiopia on September 11.
â??He played like a lion, he was brilliant,â? Ben enthused about his performance.
Ben also told me that he received a lot of pressure to pick certain players, often from politicians, but he never budged.
â??We have built up something in this team that I will not destroy. There has been some interference with some of the players trying to use ministerial connections to get selected but I told them no. I am the one who selects the team and no one else. So that will not help you. There was tribalism in the team at the beginning, with people saying you Damara or that Herero or whatever, but I insisted that that must stop. Now we have built up a great team spirit and there is no tribalism,â? he said.
â??There is no politics in the team now. In the past some players were the senior players and all this stuff, but now there are no senior or junior players â?? we are all players,â? he added.
He brought in new, unheard of players like the Katupose twins, Muna and Tara from first division outfit Epupa Eleven Stars, and Muna repaid his faith with a brilliant injury time goal to give Namibia a 3-2 victory against Ethiopia. It was like a fairytale, but it came true when the DR Congo and Libya drew at the same time in Kinshasa and Namibia leapt to the top of the table to qualify for Ghana 2008.
Four days later Ben and the Brave Warriors arrived home to a heroes welcome at Hosea Kutako International Airport. More than 100 Brave Warriors fans arrived at the airport before 09h00, but the plane was delayed several times and eventually only arrived at about 17h00. It was a long wait, but it was worth it. When Ben and the players arrived, there were emotional scenes as everyone from the airport staff and the fans to the ministerial delegation hugged and congratulated Ben and the players.
I will never forget his words when he finally got a chance to address the expectant crowd. Then already looking a bit weary, he looked slightly bemused at the reception in his honour.
â??It brings me great joy to have brought this joy to the Namibian nation. But without hard work we could not have achieved it and the hard work has now paid dividends,â? he said.
â??I told the boys they could do it, but there was always a bit of doubt. But the words of encouragement helped and changed their character and their hearts. They are now so determined to achieve more,â? he said.
Through his belief and vision he had made the Brave Warriors winners, and now they also believed it. Through his hard work and dedication he uplifted a nation, turning its dreams into reality.
The last time I saw Ben was at the Cosafa U17 competition in Windhoek on December 9 when Namibia played against Swaziland. Namibia gave a poor performance and were trailing 3-0 at halftime when I had to leave the stadium for another engagement.
As I walked up the stairs, past the dressing room, I passed Ben, walking with difficulty down the stairs towards the dressing room. He was not even supposed to be there, but his fighting spirit and determination to help the team could not be diminished.
â??These boys are making me angry. They are making stupid mistakes and I need to talk to them,â? he said as he struggled on to the dressing room.
â??You go tell them, Ben,â? I said with a smile, trying to imagine the talking to he would give them in the dressing room. But little did I know that that was the last time I would see him.
This great man is not with us anymore, but his memory lives on. We need to remember his legacy and keep alive what he brought to Namibian football â?? his professionalism, dedication, honesty and hard work.
Now we need to support our team who will be shattered by his untimely departure. He has built something great â?? it has always been there, but we just needed to believe in it to attain that greatness.
Thank you Ben, for showing us the way, and rest in peace.