Brave Warriors coach Ricardo Mannetti says his next mission is to get the national team to next year’s African Nations Cup in South Africa.
Mannetti led the Brave Warriors to Lusaka Zambia where his side slipped early in the Cosafa Castle Cup about two weeks ago.
Mannetti told The Villager in an exclusive interview after his returned from Zambia that he was pleased with the performance of the team after losing out in a quarter-final match against South Africa.
The loss cost the team the chances to progress despite winning their earlier two opening matches.
They, however, went on to lose to Mozambique in the losers’ plate final but that is not what Mannetti is concerned about right now.
He is looking to get the side ‘peak at the right time’ when he prepares for the qualifiers for the tournament in South Africa instead.
“To reach the finals of the African Nations Cup is initially the mandate that I got from the Namibia Football Association (NFA) and that is what we are aiming for right now. This past tournament was a great momentum builder to the Nations Cup and I want the team to peak at the right time,” he says.
Mannetti is the youngest ever local head coach of the national team and at 38. He turned out in 55 encounters for his country as a midfielder and has ironically, only scored one goal during his career.
He says when he was appointed as the coach of the national team some people thought he was new to the trade.
“Contrary to that, I have been part of the system for some time now. I was involved with the under 20s and under 23s for some time and I have also worked under Bernard Kaanjuka and recently Roger Palmgren,” he says.
Nations Cup hero
Mannetti, also known as ‘Bucksy’ played in the 1998 African Nations Cup in Burkina Faso and is currently one of the most recognised faces in domestic football.
The team in that year made an impression at the tournament by narrowly losing out 4-3 to Ivory Coast after a dramatic come-back from 3 goals down.
In that match Mannetti also scored alongside Eliphas Shivute who had netted twice earlier.
They pulled a 3-all draw against Angola in their next match, while they bowed out gallantly against South Africa in a match in which Benni McCarthy blasted four goals past Ronnie Kanalelo who still today talks fondly about that experience.
Although Mannetti is now in a managerial post with Kanalelo as his assistant, he says he wants the current crop of young players to play as many matches to be ready for the competition next year.
“We have decided that we will ask the Namibia Premier League (NPL) teams to release some players we need for national training camps for at least twice a week to train with us,” he says.
The reason is that the 12 teams in the NPL only play 22 matches per season.
He believes there is a need for the national team footballers to be given more game time to have an edge ahead of national duty.
Mannetti says the pool of players who will be called to the weekly training camps will be bigger for them to have more options.
Mannetti started his playing career officially with Civics in 1997, but played at school level and for Arsenal before going into mainstream football for Civics.
He moved to South Africa playing for Avondale Athletico in South Africa, Cape Town-based Santos for most of his career in that country, while he also had stints with Bush Bucks, all in the in the South African Premier Soccer League (PSL).
He retired from international football in 2003, but after that got involved in coaching, starting with NPL side Civics between 2007 and 2010, before he moved on to Black Africa in the same year and got appointed as the Namibia under 20 coach in 2011, till his recent climb as the Warriors mentor.
Mannetti says he does not have anything called ‘foreign or local-based players’ in his mind, but only sees a squad of 18 players who can deliver.
“I look for the best 18 players. I am not interested in who plays where or how popular the player is. What I want in the end is whether the player can give his best in the position that I employ him. I look at the merit and delivery of players in positions,” he says.
He adds that at this stage, he has seen good progress among some of the players who are playing outside the country and will be glad to call some of them up to compliment his efforts in the squad that did duty in the Cosafa Cup.
“In preparing for the Nations Cup qualifiers, it will be good to bring in players who are playing elsewhere, mix them with the sides that played in the CHAN as well as Cosafa to be able to have a balanced squad for the qualifiers,” he says.
Asked if his lifestyle has changed since being appointed as the national team coach, Mannetti says he has been in the set-up of football for some time and says his family understand the ‘ups and downs’ of the profession.
“I must be prepared for criticism, they must also be prepared for it, but most importantly, I will need the support of the football loving community in Namibia to successfully achieve the goals we have set for our team,” he says.