The Women’s Super League (WSL) is now in its twilight stage, but is still battling to lure sponsors, despite enjoying relative success in terms of results.
The WSL is currently only in its second edition, although it was established in 2011. However, WSL chairperson Jackie Gertze said this was by design, with 2014 being the gap year for the Women’s Department in the Namibia Football Association (NFA) to focus on the CAF Women’s Championship.
Although the WSL was complemented with the addition of five new teams this year, namely Omaheke Ladies, Rehoboth Queens, Galz & Goals, City Girls United and Java Java ladies, the league has not gathered as much attention from the corporate world as the men’s Namibia Premier League (NPL).
“Lack of sponsorship for sport in Namibia is generally a huge problem. I believe we at the NFA have done more than enough to convince corporate sponsors in Namibia to support the girls’ game from junior to senior levels. To me, it is simply a matter of those who own the right to the funding deliberately choosing to channel funding to other programmes they regard as important to their companies,” Gertze charged.
She argued that the understanding of the value of sport for development still needs a lot of advocacy, stating that the financial and human resources which can be channelled towards sport stand a stronger chance to provide education and behavioural change needed to combat HIV and AIDS, gender-based violence, hunger and poverty than other activities.
“The NFA Galz & Goals National Football and Healthy Lifestyle Championship alone reached over 15 000 young girls in Namibia, of whom 3500 are members of the youth league. Over 400 coaches are trained in the Galz & Goals’ project by coach Jacqui Shipanga on technical and tactical training. Imagine, with more financial injection, what more and how many more girls and women can tap into the benefit of sport?” she asked rhetorically.
Despite the challenges, change will likely only come through the continued growth of the league, and although it was shelfed last year to cater for the hosting of the CAF Women’s Championship in Windhoek, Gertze argued that that competition was the best thing needed to boost the women’s game.
“It has changed everybody’s perspective to support the game. I still get a good feeling when I see the pictorial view of thousands of supporters packing the Sam Nujoma stadium. That was the best-supported event we have ever had,” Gertze beamed.
“The biggest contributor to the WSL’s growth and popularity were the great performances of the Brave Gladiators at the CAF Women’s Championship 2014, where they won their opening match in great style by 2-0, and also their superstar performances against Nigeria and Ivory Coast. Some players like Zenatha Coleman, Thomalina Adams, Mammie Kasaona and Stacey Naris are now household names in local football. Everybody wants to see them play,” she added.
The return of the WSL, which now has 12 teams, has seen entertaining football played, albeit at an imbalance because of weaker newcomers, although thrilling nonetheless. League leaders Tura Magic Ladies head the table by a comfortable five points, and have scored over 73 goals in just seven matches, which is an average of 10 goals per game.
On the other hand, lowly Java Java Ladies lie bottom with 0 points, having scored only three goals and over 88 conceded in just eight games. The addition of teams to the league’s second edition has been an indicator of growth, Gertze said.
“It clearly shows that the influx of players from the lower leagues in the popular Galz & Goals’ project has tremendously increased over the past two seasons, the last time the WSL was played. It also indicates that there is increased interest among football managers, coaches and individuals to start a women’s football team. Some even own women’s football teams,” said Gertze.
Given the number of young players who come through the clubs’ youth ranks, the WSL has also provided an opportunity to have a yardstick in the selection of players for training squads for the different national teams in terms of positions.
With its return, the WSL has also had great impacts off the pitch. According to Gertze, 90% of the top 22 regular Brave Gladiators’ players are employed with a monthly income of a minimum of N$3 000, with others going up to N$17 000 monthly.
This income is supported by their national team benefits during their international games.
“At least up to six players were taken up by the Namibian Police (Nampol) and more than 12 players are employed by the Namibian Defence Force (NDF), first through their clubs and then through the national women’s team.
Other players work for fitness institutions with motivational letters from the national football team as fitness instructors, while some are tertiary students. Our captain is a teacher by profession, now following a career in coaching,” noted Gertze.