In the World of Rugby, Namibia is normally only featured as runner-up to everyone else. You said Namibia? Who are they?
Yet, to us Namibians, having the Welwitschias represent the country on this international platform is a matter of pride, of hope and of … courage.
Just look at the statistics: Our country has (2011 census) not even 2.2 million inhabitants. A little more than half are women. Of the remaining 1 million men, it will be safe to say that 3/4 or more are too young, too old or simply not interested in Rugby. This leaves us with a pool of around 200.000 possible rugby enthusiasts. In the whole country. Compare this to soccer? 200.000 are probably the soccer players of London alone!
Back to Namibian rugby. How many of the 200.000 enthusiasts might be ‘world class material’ players (sorry!) and how much scope is there for professional rugby in an economy of Namibian dimensions? Consider this for a moment: The players are all in the young professional age group where you normally graduate, buy a car, buy a house, get married and have your first child!
So, what do the Namibians do? They do both! They build their careers while playing wold class rugby! Of the squad as entered into the 2015 Rugby World Cup:
10 players play in South African clubs
08 players play for teams from Japan over Australia to France and England
12 players play for 3 Namibian clubs
01 player is ‘unattached’ !!
As far as I could determine, only 4 of the current team of 31 players are playing professionally in South Africa. The telegraph.co.uk says: ‘Namibia are a team of professionals, farmers, teachers, a foreign currency broker and a guy who works in a bike shop’.
The match Namibia vs. New Zealand was a match between amateurs and the world number 1 professionals. Many probably think that Namibia is actually out of their minds to even march out and onto the pitch. The thought alone of facing the All Blacks’ famous battle-cry ‘Haka’ and having to play them would send me running and hiding behind the lockers in the change room!
Namibia lost the match, of course. But they made the whole country proud and my young friend Melanie posted on Facebook: Johan Deysel ek trou sommer met jou! (Johan Deysel, I’ll marry you!) – when he scored A TRY !!! against the All Blacks in this match!
This match describes the Namibian nation and the lyrics of our national anthem. We go in there regardless, we give it our best until the whistle blows and we even enjoy the small miracles (bagging that try) on the way.
Namibia, land of the brave, …