Three years after establishing The Samora Soccer League, founder, Iyambo Awene, commonly known as ‘Professor’, is pleased with the progress the league has a and remains positive about the future.
Currently in its first round of games for the new season, the Samora Soccer League has grown from humble beginnings to a very popular attraction on the field intersecting Wanaheda, Greenwell Matongo and Havana, next to Otjomuise road.
After observing teams that would wager and play against each other on the same field in 2012, Awene would get involved by promoting the games and announcing the results and fixtures on Energy 100FM, Omulunga and NBC radio.
“The enthusiasm from the people encouraged me and I thought; why not start a league? It would help keep things more organised and you never know how far it might go,” says Awene.
Awene joined forces with Elia Kandjabanga, commonly known as Bomma, after hearing about his excellent organisation skills. When the invitations for interested teams to join were sent out, 20 teams responded with willingness to join. The final number of teams was cut down to 18 as the organizers felt 20 teams were too many to manage.
The teams first started with a contribution of N$550 per member team, which has since risen to N$700. This money is collected and given to top four teams of the league, meanwhile, the top eight teams in the league according to the log standings go on to complete in a year-end tournament called the Top Eight play-off.
Current champions, Brave United, walked away with N$9000 worth of equipment sponsored by OTB and runner-ups, Havana City got N$7000 worth. Hakahana United and Okaduku F.C got N$5000 and N$3000 worth of equipment respectively.
Awene, who manages Havana City in the Samora league, grew up loving soccer in Oniipa and was the captain of his childhood club, Typhoon for seven years. It was thus natural for him to assume the role of founding the league. However, this was not his only motive for starting up a community league.
“Soccer can be a good distraction for the youth. Instead of being out there doing something wrong, they can be doing something healthy. Instead of drinking alcohol they can play soccer. There is also a chance their talent can be spotted and they can end up in the Brave Warriors,” he says.
In this regard, a number of young key players from the Samora league have made the step up, including two that went on to play for Ramblers (before becoming Unam F.C.), Ongete United (formerly in the second division), Eleven Arrows and other clubs.
“Some players go for trials to Premier League clubs as well. Last year a number of players from three teams in our league got into the NamPol soccer team. Later that year, all the guys were recruited by NamPol and are now police officers,” says Awene. He adds, “We are doing well. We also have three women who are coaching teams in the league. People come and sell their goods such as cool drinks and chips during games.”
Players hail from different parts of Windhoek but mainly the informal settlements in the Katutura area, including Babylon, Okahandja Park, Greenwell Matongo and Otjomuise. Awene says he is grateful to City of Windhoek for their support over the years, including buying kits for the winners of the first Top Eight competition back in 2012, as many players were forced to play shirtless by the lack of equipment. He says this helped motivate other teams and improved the quality of the league.
Despite the good relationship with City of Windhoek, Awene has become cautious about the future of the league since a significant portion of the land where their field is on was bought. He says, “The fear is there. The land belongs to City of Windhoek, and there is a worry that if a willing buyer comes along, they might take it away from us. The land next to us that they are busy building on used to be our training area. But if they do take this place in the future, then hopefully we can reach an agreement to be moved elsewhere and not just dropped.”
Although the Samora League is not yet registered under the Namibia Football Association (NFA), it is Awene’s wish that it would be registered soon and become the official third division, meaning players from the second division can be relegated into the Samora League and winners there can be promoted to the second division.
“We have set up a committee to see how we can approach this,” Awene reveals.
Some of the challenges that the Samora league has faced still included sponsorship and finances. Awene says, “We are grateful for the ones we have, but we could do so much more if we had better sponsorships. Our field is also not the right standard for soccer. As you can see, the left side is higher, making it uneven,” he adds, “Because there is no stand, spectators sit on the railing, just by the road.