Netball Namibia competing on the edge

THE National Sports Conference held at Safari Hotel in Windhoek four years ago attracted many influencers, activists and stakeholders. The discussion topics focused on issues such as sports system, structures, funding and categorisation of sport codes among others.

Subsequently, the government through the Ministry of Sports, Youth and National Service endorsed the sport categorisation framework in 2018. The framework serves to financially support national sport codes within the respective priority tiers. In this regard, football, rugby and netball were recognised as priority national sports codes. Therefore this opinion piece thus serves to zoom in the affairs of netball with the hope of igniting a debate on how best to move this prestige sport to the next level in line with the NDP5 strategic objectives of which the professionalisation of sports is one among others.

Netball was formally registered in the early 1990s with the Namibia National Sport Council and later with the Namibia Sports Commission. Netball has identified a strong mission which strives to promote recreation and entertainment to all Namibians to inspire participation in Namibia, Africa and internationally; and to enforce the adherence of rules and regulations that govern netball according to the International Netball Federation (INF).

Namibia is currently ranked 31on the INF World Ranking with only 17 points. It is worth to mention that countries such as South Africa, Uganda, Malawi, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe are enjoying favorable rankings as compared to Namibia. The INF World Rankings are published to compare the relative strengths of internationally active national netball teams. Initially, rankings were based on the results from the World Netball Championships, and released after the conclusion of each event, every four years. A new ranking system was implemented in 2008, wherein teams are ranked based on international tests played. To achieve the above strategic objectives Netball Namibia’s vision is to be ranked amongst the top three in Africa and top 10 in the world.

Just like its contemporaries such as football and rugby, Netball Namibia needs to be turned into a professional organisation by establishing the following; (A) a fully equipped office with full time employees both administrative and technical (B) the organisation should receive an annual grant of N$4 million to run its operations and activities (C) establish a commercial and business arm that will mobilise financial resources from different sectors of the Namibian economy, (D) capacitate coaches and administrators, (E) promote strong regional competitions  (F) regular participation and competition of the junior and senior national teams. This will broaden the team’s skills and attract ranking by INF learning from Zimbabwe as best practice and case study.

Zimbabwe Netball Association (ZNA) has made it their mission to play numerous test games with different nations which resulted the country being ranked 13 in the INF World Rankings. The ZNA national team impressed the international netball fraternity in 2018 by qualifying for their first ever Netball World Cup to be held this year in the United Kingdom. With the economic environment being projected  to take an upside or growth in the next few years, Namibia can thus surely learn one or two from other best case studies in Africa such as from Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, Malawi and Botswana to mention but a few. The above countries have not shot-up in the ranking overnight. It was as a result of concerted efforts of team work, consistency, excellence, good governance, funding, investment, and regular competitions.

In order for Netball Namibia to follow suit, it is imperative that the organisation receives adequate funding, technical and administrative support by all stakeholders.  It is not too late to change the game plan.