Each of Burundi’s Swallows have about N$80 000 worth of motivation to gain an early advantage in the race for Africa Cup of Nations qualifying over Namibia and Cameroon in the next five days.
The rag-tag Brave Warriors are the first obstacle to the handsome bonus, with Namibia hosting the East Africans in Johannesburg tomorrow before the latter side stage their home tie against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in Dar Es Salaam, in Tanzania, on Wednesday.
Namibia’s and Burundi’s fortunes on and off the field could not be more different.
While the Football Federation of Burundi reportedly dangles a juicy carrot in front of its Swallows, the Namibia Football Association has barely scraped together sufficient funds to keep the Brave Warriors in the competition.
Additionally, one half of the team has not played football since the Brave Warriors lost 1-0 to Togo in their final 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier in November.
In fact, the home-based contingent has not played competitive club football for nearly a year, and have had about a week to work on cohesive game plan with the foreign legion.
The Warriors will be without Blackburn Rovers defender Ryan Nyambe, “who asked to be withdrawn due to personal reasons”, while untimely injuries to midfielders Wangu Gome and Obrey Amseb leave an already strained side short on options.
However, the Brave Warriors have shown they can get results with their backs against the wall. They qualified for consecutive African Nations Championships and an Afcon under similar circumstances.
Returning playmaker Petrus Shitembi believes the team will rise to the occasion and get a positive result.
“A few hiccups here and there, it’s normal, but the spirt is pretty high. We know how important this match is, so we’re really looking forward to it,” he says.
With Kenya booted out of the qualifying race due to ‘political interference’ in the running of its football association, it effectively leaves Namibia and Burundi to fight for the second spot behind pool C favourites and Qatar World Cup-bound Cameroon.
The top-two teams in each group qualify for the 2023 Afcon finals to be staged in Ivory Coast.
“We’re going to give it everything we can. We’re going in there with the mentality of getting a win. We’re home as much as circumstances dictate, so we’re looking forward to getting a good start to the campaign. It’s a massive opportunity for us to qualify for this nations cup.”
Meanwhile, the Burundian FA chief, Révérien Ndikuriyo, whipped up his side by offering enticing bonuses.
“Regarding the two matches the Burundian team will deliver successively against Namibia and Cameroon, for each match played and won each player will get a bonus of five million BIF about (about N$37 632),” Ndikuriyo announced on Sunday.
Namibia and Burundi are relatively evenly matched, having enjoyed a 3-1 away win each in their only two previous meetings.
The form book follows the same pattern.
Burundi have registered three wins across their last 10 matches dating back to December 2019, losing five others along with two draws.
Similarly, Namibia have three wins, as many draws, and four defeats over the last 10 matches played between July and November 2021.
“As much as the odds are stacked against us, we believe that we have what it takes to put up a good fight against Burundi,” said interim Namibia head coach Bobby Samaria.
We must be prepared during crucial moments in the game and act accordingly but the boys are ready and the fitness levels are great. The local based players have picked up momentum and are in great shape.”
Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 13h00.
In the Brave Warriors squad are:
Goalkeepers – Kamaijanda Ndisiro, Loydt Kazapua, Edward Maova;
Defenders – Kennedy Amutenya, Ivan Kamberipa, Riaan Hanamub, Ananias Gebhardt, Vitapi Ngaruka, Larry Horaeb, Denzil Haoseb, Charles Hambira;
Midfielders – Dynamo Fredericks, Immanuel Heita, Wangu Gome, Petrus Shitembi, Deon Hotto, Absalom Iimbondi, Alfeus Handura, Wesley Katjiteo, Willy Stephanus, Marcel Papama, Wendell Rudath;
Forwards – Elmo Kambindu,Peter Shalulile, Benson Shilongo and Joslin Kamatuka.