Lokasie football enters final stretch
While the Namibian Premier League (NPL) is exiting its sixth round of competition, its lokasie equivalent the Samora Soccer League is entering the last stretch of what has been a competitive season. The league is currently being contested by three teams, besides the cup competitions which they get to contest every other month. However, it is the cream of the crop, the Top Eight cup which will be played next month that most teams are salivating over. The cup competition, which Samora Soccer League organiser and founder of fifth-placed Havana City Iyambo ‘Professor’ Awene says is dubbed the Champion’s League of the lokasie, will be taking place next month in the final month of the informal football season. “Everyone is excited about the Top Eight because this time around, the City of Windhoek has pledged cash for the winners. Previously, winners only walked away with thousands worth of equipment sponsored by OTB. That is fine, but especially for the top teams who are already used to winning, the motivation was just not as strong. The big four, which includes Brave United, United Boys, Havana City and E-Champions already have enough kits, and you can only do so much with equipment. This time around, everyone will be hoping to get the big prize,” said Awene. He further explained that cash prizes would help clubs to be able to hold tours outside the city, and expand their brands beyond Windhoek. The cup will be contested by the top eight teams of the Samora Soccer League, which currently is being led by Brave United, who are also the current champions. They have amassed 65 points, with three games left to play. Behind them are United Boys and Eleven Bullet, both on 60 points, and both with five games left to play. Following these are The Lions, Havana City, Etunda United, E-Champions and Spenitha FC in fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth spots, respectively. However, these are not the final positions, and the final standings are not yet written in stone. “The league is very competitive. It has never been won by one team more than once since it was established in 2012. Every team learns from the previous campaign and improves, and that helps improve the quality of the league,” said Awene. He added that there have been many great team performances in the league. On the opposite end of the table, 061 Boys and Golgotha United have already been relegated, with Kotokeni United on the brink. Although they have six games yet to play, they have a huge six-point gap to make up, and their remaining fixtures are against all of the top three, who are fighting for the league title. Besides the continuous league, the other attraction to lokasie football has been the cup competitions which take place throughout the year. There would have been eight cup tournaments by this year-end, increasing by two from the six of last year. These are the Opening Cup (the season- opener), the Independence Cup (which is played over the weekend of 21 March), the Easter Cup, the Winter Cup, the Summer Cup, The Cup Winner’s Cup, the Top Eight Cup and the Closing Cup, which is the final fixture of the footballing season before players and management disperse in various directions for the December holidays before the season commences in January 2016. N$8200 and 20 medals were up for grabs for the winners of the Two Steps’ Entertainment Summer Cup, which took place this past weekend. The popularity of these cups is such that they have had guests from the Second Division taking part, the most prominent of which has been Falcon and Impala Chiefs. “However, the competition of our league is very tough. No team from the Second Division has ever won any of these cups. It is always teams from the Samora League which snap it up. The furthest they have gone is the semi-final. This tells me that we have some good teams in the league. Our league is becoming very popular. I don’t think there is a corner in Windhoek which hasn’t heard of us, and if I am to compare us with Premier League games at the Sam Nujoma Stadium, I think we are doing much better in terms of attendance. The field, albeit not a professional one, is always surrounded with spectators,” boasted Awene. One of the things Awene said they plan to introduce in the Samora Soccer League before next season is the concept of a transfer policy. As the league has three transfer windows during the year in January, April and August, players who feel their team has no chance of surviving relegation often jump ship. This leaves teams such as 061 Boys and Golgotha United in a sticky situation, having lost their best players. “With a transfer policy, we will introduce contracts, which will keep players in the teams they are registered under. So, that means teams which want to sign a player will have to negotiate with his parent club, and not just convince the player to join them,” explained Awene. He added that when the league ends, the organisers plan to have a meeting to propose the idea of having the winners of their league join the Second Division play-offs of the Namibian Football Association (NFA). They were indeed invited to the NFA, and the word seems to be positive. Meanwhile, the captain of Brave United, Olavi ‘Uncle’ Amunyela said it is teamwork which has gotten them where they are. They are currently chasing a consecutive league title. “It is not over yet, mathematically. But we are well-committed to the league. We even had to withdraw from the Summer Cup because we had an injury to our top defender, and we didn’t want to risk anything. The team is committed to winning a second league title in a row,” he said. The league uses the John ya Otto stadium in Wanaheda as well as the field along Otjomuise Road for their matches.