With Brave Gladiator’s Independence Day match against Swaziland on the horizon and competition for places being strong, it was perhaps a surprise for 16 year old duo of Millicent Hikuam and Mellissa Matheus to get called up to represent their country.
Having progressed well in the youth ranks both on a national and regional scale it was only natural that the two youngest players receive the call up to the senior team, but perhaps they did not expect one so soon.
Melissa has previously competed in the Khomas U15 Youth Games, U17 COSSASA FA Games, U20 Zone 6 Games and U20 Zone 6 Games, while Millicent has at taken part in U13 COSSASA Champions Score Cup, U14 Hessequa Cup, G+G U15 Championships as part of the Hardap team, three times at the COSSASA U17 games and twice at the U20 Zone 6 games.
Millicent said she was over the moon when she heard the news about the call-up. “I was over-excited and happy. It has always been a dream of mine to play for the Brave Gladiators,” she said while Mellissa said, “I couldn’t believe it when I heard it and I could not sleep that night. I was just imagining myself in the national colours. I was happy to come to Windhoek to begin training.”
Currently training with the national squad, the two had somewhat different reactions to the much higher standard of training with the national squad.
“I enjoy being part of the squad, but yes training is definitely much tougher. It is a higher level of intensity than the junior side,” said Millicent while Mellissa, while different from what she is used to she said it was not that difficult as she has previously been part of the U17 and U20 training camps.
“They are well behaved. The Brave Gladiators captain ‘Mamie’ (Uerikondjera Kasaona) is a nice person. She is always making sure we arrive on time and training starts on time too,” said Mellissa.
With the final 20 names for the match squad set to be announced a week before the game, the two are hopeful of making their debuts against Swaziland, which they would be ‘historic’ but they are also looking beyond that.
“I want to score a great goal for in a CAF or World Cup competition for the Brave Gladiators. I want to play for my country and always help us,” said Millicent.
Similarly, Mellissa said, “I want to go as far as I can. I want to go to the World Cup with Brave Gladiators and take the country as far as I can.”
Millicent, who attends Eldorado Secondary School, started playing football with boys in Nama Location when Brave Gladiators senior player Stella Williams introduced her and her sister to coach, Jacqueline (Jacqui) Shipanga, who after being impressed, got her slotted into the U12 team. She plays for Galz and Goals at club level.
Similarly, Augustineum Secondary school student, Mellissa, started playing football in the street at the age of 5 with her brothers. She said they helped her improve her football skills. After moving from Otavi to Windhoek at the age of 11, she joined the JS Academy U15.
Brave Gladiator coach Shipanga said, “It is my philosophy that outstanding youngsters must be introduced to the senior team so they may familiarise themselves with the high level set up in all aspects and in doing so prepare them for U20 (CAF and FIFA) qualifiers because before that, junior national teams do not engage in tough competitions. The Brave Gladiators is their preparation ground.” She further added, “There are two important reasons why Millicent and Mellissa are part of the Brave Gladiators team. They are good players and they have both come a long way in the NFA department youth structure such as the U13, U15 and U17 national team and in 2014 they both made the Zone 6 U20 team.”