Best and worst of 2020

…Athletes overcome a difficult year

By Michael Uugwanga

BEST of 2020

IT is that time of the year once again when we reflect on the highs and lows of the year in our sporting fraternity and look at athletes who excelled and those that failed to make the grade during this difficult year that was disrupted by the outbreak of Covid-19.

Namibia, with its small population has done relatively well compared to countries with bigger populations. Marathon runner Helalia Johannes once again proved to everyone that age is just a number after she broke her own national marathon record coming third at the Valencia Marathon in a time of 2:19:52. With this achievement Namibia became the third African country to break the 2:20 barrier in women’s marathon after Kenya and Ethiopia.

At age, 40, turning 41 next year, Johannes will be among the favourites to win the women marathon at next year’s rescheduled Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

If she manages to achieve that she will follow in the footsteps of Olympian, Frank Fredericks who won four silver medals at two different Olympic Games, two at the Barcelona games and two at the Atlanta Games in the 100m and 200m respectively.

Another athlete that has impressed everyone is 17 year-old Beatrice Misilingi who won the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi, Kenya in October in the 400m heat in a brilliant time of 50,99, of which she broke her personal best time by more than a second and set a new Namibian senior record time, while it was also the fourth fastest senior time in the world this year.

Misilingi is on course of qualifying to next year’s Summer Olympic Games for the first time and will surely be a big threat in the 400m against some of the world’s best sprinters.

To add to her success heading into 2021, Misilingi won the 400m women race over the past weekend in Pretoria at the Athletics Gauteng North Covid-19 league in a world leading time of 50,42 seconds. She also won the 200m in 22,71, with both times being new national record marks and inside Olympic qualification standard.

Boxing continues to do wonders with Jeremiah ‘Low-key’ Nakathila carrying the country’s flag high after successfully defending his World Boxing organisation (WBO) Junior Global Super Featherweight against Tanzania’s Emmanuel Amos last Saturday in Windhoek and is now on course to fight for a world title in 2021 and at age 30 there is no better time for him to have a shot at the world title.

Local football has been going through a tough time but there are some players that continue to raise the Namibian flag in foreign countries notably Peter Shalulile who last season became the first Namibian to finish a season in the South Africa’s top flight league as joint top scorer after netting 16 goals for his former club Highlands Park, to finish the campaign tied with Gabadinho Mhango of Orlando Pirates.

Another player is Deon Hotto who has been a marvel to watch for his new club Orlando Pirates in the DSTV Premiership after helping his side beat Bloemfontein Celtic on Sunday to win the MTN Top 8 Cup and was among the scorers in a 2-1 win.

Another achievement by Namibia this year was the country’s U-20 boys team that  lost in the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) U-20 men tournament  to Mozambique last Sunday, and despite the defeat Namibia qualified to its first ever Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON ) U-20 tournament and therefore the team is Confidente’s team of the season.

WORST of 2020

The Namibia Football Association (NFA) and the Namibia Premier

League (NPL) saga is still the worst scenario for two consecutive years following the expulsion of the NPL in July, which also resulted in the NFA forming its new league called the Namibia Premier Football League ((NPFL) that is scheduled to start in February next year.

Another dismal memory is when the NFA failed to send a Namibian female team to the COSAFA women’s tournament last month, after the NFA gave excuses that women football is not yet ready to take in the regional competition due to the absence of the domestic league, but however managed to send the boys under-20 team at the recently ended COSAFA Cup, even though both male and female football was absent this year.

The lack of game time for the men senior rugby team, the Welwitschias, is arguably one of the worst occurrences this year despite rugby given the green light to go ahead with its activities by World Rugby and by the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

Most embarrassing 2020

When the entire NPL staff was kicked out of the NFA building by the association after the NPL’s expulsion.