The future of Otjiwarongo-based basketball team, Osire Splash, is currently in limbo due to financial troubles.
The team has not played a single game since September last year, and the current Sport Coordinator of the team, Dominique Samba, said they are not sure when they will play again.
“Whenever we are invited for tournaments, it is very difficult for us to go because we don’t have the money for transport and accommodation,” he said.
The main reason for this is due to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ending its operations in Namibia. With UNHCR handing over responsibilities to the Namibian government and ending its financial support to the camp, the team has been left at the end of their wits on how to continue. To date, the UNHCR has sponsored over N$37 million to the refugees in Osire refugee Camp which is situated 200KM north of Windhoek.
That support saw the team being accepted into the top tier of Namibian basketball, the Khomas Basketball Association (KBA) league by the officials. The team did relatively well for their status and were set to play in the league again before their financial plight hit.
“From what I heard, they are leaving. They said they are no more refugees in Namibia, so they will go to Asia or Central Africa. So now we have to find our own feet,” said Samba, adding, “Our main problem is transport, getting to the venues, mainly in Windhoek. We will now look towards the government or someone, whoever can help us. I will be drafting up sponsorship letters soon.”
He added that despite their financial troubles, the team has not become complacent and have been holding practice sessions every day.
“We have training every day and are in a process of replacing some of the players we have lost. We don’t want to relax so we have friendly games amongst ourselves. Our wish is to challenge for the KBA one day and have some of our players represent their national teams, be it Namibia, Angola or DRC,” said Samba.
Former sport coordinator of Osire Splash, Donaldo Mpau, who now works for the general office of Osire Refugee Camp, said the team enjoyed their time in the league. He said, “Apart from some quarrelling which cost us during our last game, the team has done alright. We have lots of sports here in Osire, including soccer, volleyball and netball, but basketball was the most organised.” He further explained that a factor that cost them during their last KBA league campaign was that because they were in a refugee camp and working with the UNHCR to repatriate the refugees, they lost many key players. He says a number of their core players were relocated to the United States.
According to Mpau, Osire Splash was established in 2001 at the camp as a recreational distraction for the refugee youth from their troubles and “to keep from bad habits like sexual activities.” Many of its founding members have moved either back home or gone abroad with the help of the UNHCR.
Although there are mainly Congolese, Burundian and Angolan players, in 2013, they had a Namibian forward, Istvan Olivier, who left the team when he moved to Swakopmund last year.
Samba said there are many Namibians from the Otjiwarongo area who are willing to join them but Osire Splash in its current state cannot accommodate them and because the camp is some distance from the main town, communication with the interested parties has proved difficult.
“But I have heard from my players that they are good. Hopefully something will materialise in future. We can only hope,” Samba said.