Khomas netball grows without sponsor

By John Tuerijama

UNLIKE football, which has amassed sponsorship from both the public and private sector, netball is financially hamstrung but that has not stopped regions, like Khomas, from fighting tooth and nail for the survival of the sport.

The three national sport codes that government through the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service backed financially, include the senior football team, to ensure their participation at the ongoing 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in Egypt. It also injected close to N$15 million to support the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU)’s Welwitschias’ participation at the IRB World Cup in Japan later this year.

Netball on the other hand appears to be struggling to secure resources at both regional and national level, with the senior national team desperately hoping to improve their African and world ranking.

Though most regions have active netball leagues, four regions, namely Oshana, Ohangwena, Kunene and //Kharas, are finding the going extremely though in their efforts to establish an effective league.

Khomas Netball League (KNL) has for the past few years run its league activities without an official sponsor. Sport reporter John Tuerijama (JT) recently asked KNL spokesperson Isack Hamata (IH) about their successes and the challenges facing the sport.

JT: How does Khomas netball league continue to host its leagues uninterrupted without an official sponsor?

IH: It all boils down to commitment and the love for the sport. All the stakeholders, from the players, club officials, coaches, umpires, parents, spectators play a huge role in ensuring that netball continues to be played. If it was just for the sake of money we will not be seeing any netball in the Khomas region, but notwithstanding, it will be very helpful to have a sponsor who can assist with prize money, paying of umpires. Right now all those expenditures are incurred by the league.

JT: Has the infrastructure in Khomas impacted positively on the development of netball in the region?

IH: Khomas has an infrastructure problem, just like other regions. However, Khomas is blessed that there are clubs that are generous enough to assist with facilities for free or at a minimal cost. That is part of the commitment I reflected on earlier to say that people do what they do for netball, because they understand the bigger picture, which is the development of sport in the country.

JT: Looking at the state of netball in other regions, how has that affected the development of netball nationally in terms of regional and continental participation?

IH: There are regions which are active, but which are also struggling with sponsorship and infrastructure – just like Khomas. It is pointless for one region to be way ahead of others while the rest of the regions don’t even have a single netball court. The best way to develop a sport such as netball is for everyone to move along at the same pace.

What happens in Khomas must happen in all other regions. When we participate in international youth and senior tournaments you will ideally want the selectors to choose players from a wide pool of players coming from all parts of the country. The selectors must have a headache in terms of who to select. That is the most desirable situation for netball and any other sport, but unfortunately the reality is different.

JT: How many teams are competing in the Khomas netball league, and has there been a significant growth in the number of teams?

IH: We have three divisions in the Khomas netball region-premier, first division and second division. The premier and first division have ten teams each, while the second division has 12 teams. The number of teams per division has been consistent because of constitutional stipulations. Relegation takes place in the premier and first division, but not in the second division, which is considered the development division.

JT: Where do you see Khomas netball in the next three years in terms of development? Will we see a professionalised league set up that will attract sponsors and eventually select a regional team capable of touring southern Africa?

IH: We have set ourselves the objectives of reaching out to the under-privileged areas which fall within the ambit of Khomas region. We want to reach as many prospective players and introduce them to netball. We also want to help other regions establish their leagues so that all the 14 regions in the country have fully functional leagues. That is our commitment as Khomas to help the country’s netball move forward, instead of doing things in isolation. There are attempts at national level to professionalise sport but that will be difficult without sponsors. The will is there but the resources are the challenge.

JT: Do you foresee the senior national netball team being dominated by players from Khomas because of the active league in the region?

IH: At the moment that is the case, but we want to see a wide representation from all regions. That will only happen if we have fully fledged leagues in all regions.

JT: How does Khomas netball league assist with players who have the potential to pursue their netball careers abroad?

IH: Unfortunately, Khomas as a netball region is struggling and survives because of voluntarism. Our message to our players is always that they must not lose heart, they must train and play to the best of their abilities to make it into the national teams, which is where they can catch the eyes of international scouts. We have had one or two Namibians who managed to play outside Namibia because of their perseverance and hunger for success.

JT: How can Khomas netball league assist other regions through Netball Namibia in establishing regional netball leagues and render expertise in terms of administration and coaching?

IH: We are open to engage our colleagues in other regions, the outreach programme is one of those plans to help other regions to establish leagues or move from base A to B in terms of growth. In collaboration with Netball Namibia, the mother body of netball, we are also able to provide training to their coaches and umpires in other regions but that needs coordination with Netball Namibia. We stand however ready to share our knowledge, which we have been doing to some degree.

JT: Would you say a lack of corporate interest in sponsoring netball has affected the sport.

JT: It has, but so far we have managed to soldier on. There are corporates which have helped with trophies and medals during our season opening and closing tournaments over the past few years, as well as gear for our participation in the Namibian Newspaper Cup and the Debmarine Nationals. To those companies we remain eternally indebted. We will, however, appreciate if more [companies] could come on board to take netball to greater heights.