Meet Handura, the man behind women hockey

• By Michael Uugwanga

HIS week is usually jam packed, and he is a man who rarely sleeps thinking about the next day’s agenda.

The man is Erwin Handura, head coach of the country’s senior women indoor hockey team that will be at next year’s International Hockey Federation (FIH) in Liège, Belgium, in February.

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The 52-year-old is also a former footballer and was a long distance runner during his school years.

He also played handball with deputy sports director in the Ministry of Sport, Youth and national Service, Erwin Ndjavera, when the two were students at University of Namibia (UNAM), while he played football alongside former Brave Warriors midfielder and former coach Ricardo Mannetti for Ella Du Plessis Secondary School in 1990.

Despite being a hockey coach, Handura is a farmer, spiritual leader and also event organiser.

He is also regarded as the best hockey coach in the country, having won not less than 25 titles as coach for both women and men local clubs.

“I was a middle distance and long distance runner in the 1 500m, 5000m, 10 000m, 5km, 10km and 21km and I have four marathon medals under my belt.

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I also used to play football for UNAM football club and for Arcadia football club. In 1995 I played for UNAM in the Namibia Football Association (NFA) Cup as player coach and also played for Liverpool football club of Okahandja between 1991 and early 1992 before I sustained a crucial ligament injury against Black Africa but opted not to go for an operation.

“The whole 1992 I rested, then in 1993 when I was at UNAM campus now where University of Science and Technology (NUST) campus is, old friends of mine from Ella Du Plessis Secondary School then approached me to join their hockey team because they did not have enough players but I told them that I did not know how to play hockey, until they said if you know how to play football then you will also know how to play hockey, that’s when they taught me how to hold a hockey stick. I remember the first day when we lost 11-0 against Deutscher Turn und Sportverein (DTS),” said Handura.

His appointment as senior coach comes a long way despite previously having a sour relationship with the Namibia

Hockey Union (NHU), today, Handura has put Namibian hockey on the global stage.

“The first time I became coach of the women senior team was in 1999 when we went to the All-Africa Games in Johannesburg, South Africa and we came fourth after losing 3-2 to Kenya. In 1993 we went to another All-Africa Games in Abuja, Nigeria, but we did not do well because most of the players contracted malaria and players could not adapt to the situation, that is why we did not do well.

“In 2004 I was appointed coach for the U-21 junior team and went on to win a bronze medal at the Junior African Nations Cup in Cape Town.

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In 2005, I then went on to win a bronze medal with the senior indoor team at the Africa Cup of Nations in Pretoria,” said Handura.

Despite his success with the senior and junior teams, NHU decided to part ways with Handura, until 2015 when the union reappointed him as senior coach after a decline in the country’s hockey at international stage.

“In the beginning of 2007, I was then told that I am no longer the coach for the team, and I can recall very well that two months before the World Cup qualifiers in Nairobi, Kenya, the players in particular the captain at the time told me that the players wanted me back as coach. I was then re-appointed. In 2011, we then went to the Indoor World Cup by default because some few countries that had already qualified for the World Cup opted not to go. 

“In 2015, I then took the team to the Four Nations tournament in Durban and we finished second. In 2018, we had the outdoor open series Africa qualifiers in Zimbabwe and won the series.

His biggest success as national team coach was when he led the team to the Indoor Africa Cup of Nations in Swakopmund at the expense of powerhouse South Africa, which also saw Namibia’s women team qualifying to the 2018 Indoor World Cup in Berlin.

In April this year, he retained the Indoor Hockey Africa Cup of Nations in Durban when they once again beat South Africa to secure another World Cup berth in Liège.

“I am probably the most successful coach in the history of hockey in the country, with two bronze, one silver and three gold medals. No coach in the country … even if you combined all coaches together they do not have these accolades,” said Handura.