The incredible journey of Afrocat
• By Michael Uugwanga
IT is not easy starting a netball club all on your own, but it is another thing altogether to start a netball club and then selflessly invest your labour without any expectation of return.
This is the story of Afrocat Lions Netball Club that was formed in 2014 in Windhoek by Dimitri Bittler who is the current coach and his wife Selma, who is also a player for the team.
Today, there are three Afrocat Lions clubs in the Khomas Region League (Windhoek), one club in Gobabis (Omaheke region), Rundu (Kavango-east region) and Ongwediva in Oshana region.
It was in 2014 when Bittler registered two Afrocat Lions teams 1 A and 1 B in the Khomas Region League third division, which saw Afrocat 1A finishing in second place while Afrocat B came sixth that season.
The following season in 2015, Bittler decided to register Afrocat 1 A in the second division and three Afrocat Lions in the third division, which saw Afrocat Lions 1A coming second once again, Afrocat Lions B in third place and Afrocat Lions C fifth in a league that comprised of 10 teams.
In 2016, Afrocat Lions 1A then gained promotion to the 2017 Khomas Region League first division before they gained promotion to the Khomas Region Super 10 in 2019 after it won the Khomas Region League first division.
The Khomas Super 10 is the Khomas Region top tier netball league, which is used by teams in the region to gain promotion to the multi-million dollar MTC Netball Premier League (MTC NPL).
Afrocat Lions 1A are leading the log with 36 points from 12 matches, while second placed team Wanderers have 30 points.
“I have never expected us to become as competitive as we have become, but our philosophy of aiming for the stars and land on the moon has driven us to push for excellence. Being promoted to match is testimony to our hard work and the great sacrifices by many members over the year. A Shipena Secondary School partnership has become very fruitful for the club and very beneficial to the school as we have driven the netball at the school to resuscitate it and with the current principal at the school we have turned the prospects of the school into a top five best performing school netball team, meaning they are the strongest school in Katutura at the moment and therefore it has really helped us develop players at grassroot level,” said Bittler.
Bittler is very much aware of the stiff competition that awaits his team next season in the MTC NPL that was won by the Namibian Correctional Service netball club a fortnight ago.
“We are definitely going to compete in the MTC NPL therefore we will be working on our small error margins so that it helps us become competitive. We have already started planning for the next 10 years to come. We are also looking at maybe registering a second division team next year for development purposes.”
Afrocat Lions Netball Club came out of the ashes of the African Catwalkers Namibia, a non-profit youth organisation that was founded in 2009 by Bittler, Valentina Haufiku and Ricardo Uirab, with the aim of providing opportunities for the youth to engage in fashion design, modelling, events organising/management, youth programmes, sports (netball, soccer, volleyball, chess and rugby) and media (photography and graphic design).