After a hearty breakfast, we started a busy day at 08h00 with a 60km trip north to the town of Oshikango on the Angolan border. Today we had a hectic programme lined up consisting of visits to Standard Bank branches in Oshikango, Ondangwa and Oshakati, I would also be the guest of honour at a mini soccer clinic in Oshakati involving junior teams from northern Namibia.
Our convoy often had to slow down for stray cattle, which seemed oblivious to the passing traffic and crossed the road at will. We arrived at the bustling border town of Oshikango and although it was just after nine, the sun was already beating down. The branch manager at Standard Bank, Emily Sheetekela gave us a warm welcome and I must say they made a big effort. They had decked out the inside of the building with flags and handmade posters of the Orange AFCON 2010, there was even a cardboard caricature of me kicking the ball. I was quite touched, I must say.
Members of staff lined up to have their photos taken with the trophy, Bimbo and myself, we also posed with several customers.
Outside we displayed the trophy to the large crowd that had gathered and I invited them to come and touch it and have their photos taken.
Bimbo also addressed them in Oshiwambo and later told me that he had urged them to go and support Angola in 2010 so that the trophy could stay in southern Africa.
Shortly after 10h00 we took to the road again, back down south to visit Standard Bank’s branch in Ondangwa. Here they had once again made a fine display with a colourful poster and the staff and their customers lined up for a photo session.
The afternoon session started off with a parade down Oshakati’s main road as Bimbo and I sat at the back of our convertible with the trophy held high. This proved to be quite popular as members of the public soon congested the sidewalks and started cheering as we moved along.
Things started to heat up, literally and figuratively, but nothing could have prepared us for the reception that we received from Standard Bank’s Oshakati branch. Their energetic staff started singing and dancing on our arrival. Their excitement was awesome and here too, we could see that they had made a special effort with colourful posters adorning the walls, and they had even made a miniature football field with little figurines on it. Their branch manager Ismael Hakaaje gave us a warm welcome and then it was once again time to pose for photos and sign autographs on caps and soccer balls.
The signing session went on and on, as the row seemed to be never ending, but I didn’t mind, because this was for them, the fans, and I was happy to play a part in it.
Eventually we moved to a dusty field next to the Standard Bank branch where some youth teams were preparing to play mini five-a-side soccer matches of seven minutes a side.
The first match was between a Pele Five and a Bimbo Five and I could see Bimbo was taking it very seriously as he held in depth tactical discussions with his team before the kickoff. Well, it seemed that he must have been on to something because his team went on to beat my team 2-0 – he certainly enjoyed that!
There were two more matches, and although it was very hot by now, the young kids were not bothered and displayed some fine skills for us. The final match had to be determined by penalties and a Namibian Five went on to beat a CAF Five, much to the disappointment of Sarah El Gazzar of CAF’s marketing department, who had been roped in as the coach of the CAF team.
It was all a lot of fun, but seeing these kids playing barefoot on the stony sand patch once again made me realise how much work still needs to be done in Africa, to untap and nurture the wonderful talent we have here on this continent.