One of the country’s oldest sport code, hockey is still struggling to find its feet due to a financial constrains within the union Namibia Hockey Union (NHU) president Robert Offner has revealed.
Hockey was introduced in the country in 1923.
“The biggest challenge facing the Namibia Hockey Union is a lack of funding. It is essential that an artificial surface is erected as Namibia will never be able to become truly competitive in the international arena without one. The NHU has N$2.3m saved in an investment account and a committee has now been established to continue with the project to establish one,” Offner told The Villager Sport.
He added that, “The NHU is a non- profit making organization and relies on corporate sponsorships to assist with costs which can be up to N$1m to send both national sides to participate in an international events”.
Offner said the annual grant they receive from the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC) to assist with the day to day running is a fraction of what they need to take the century old sport to the twilight zone.
“ We do receive grants from the NSC to assist with daily activities but this is a fraction of what is required to manage the union’s day to day affairs . NHU has made great progress since its inception as the South-West African Hockey Association in May 1923.
Offner also revealed that the development of hockey at all levels was greatly hampered by the former colonial and apartheid regime until after independence.
“It is not enough if we want to take the sport to all regions. Unfortunately as a result of non-commitment by the former apartheid regime, particularly as regards facilities, the Namibia Hockey Union continues to face great challenges, the most pressing being the lack of an artificial surface for field hockey and an internationally compliant complex for indoor hockey. In some areas children walk some 5 – 10 kilometres twice a week to play hockey in an “Oshona” or dry lake,” said Offner.
It was in 1978, some eleven years prior to Namibia’s Independence, the NHU, under the leadership of Dr. Laurie Jubber, rebelled against the former colonial regime by initiating an integration programme for all regardless of colour or ethnic origin, a programme which saw the first non-white players being included in national school sides in 1981.
Offner said as a result of the initiatives the sport continues to grow despite the lack of adequate facilities.
“The initiative has over the years grown to the point where hockey is currently one of the best integrated sports codes in Namibia, with national hockey league’s being run for under 8, 10, 12, 14, 18 and at senior level in nine of the thirteen regions in Namibia,” he said.
Offner also said, “Despite the lack of adequate facilities the Namibian Men’s and Women’s sides managed to qualify for the 2011 Indoor World Cup in Poland. Namibia only recently started taking part in International Competitions again largely due to the prohibitively high cost of sending touring sides overseas”. NHU has also managed to host the African Indoor hockey championships this year which Offner said was a big achievement for the country.
“Namibia managed to secure the rights to host the Africa Indoor Cup in Windhoek this year which was the Africa Qualifier for the World Cup which will take place in Leipzig, Germany in 2015. It’s a big achievement for a small country like ours,” said Offner.
Offner also said that the country will now focus on qualifying for a place at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro’s summer Olympic in Brazil.
“The current focus is the Africa Qualifiers for the Rio Olympic Games which will be held in Egypt in 2015,” said Offner.
Namibia currently has 1000 hockey players including school going children, while many national team hockey players are in South Africa’s universities studying.
Maggy Mengo and Siyabonga Martins are two of Namibia’s most recognized top players. Mengo played professionally in Holland for a number of years.