The Debmarine Premiership is once again upon us with the defending champions African Stars the hot favourites to retain their title.

After several years of inactivity the league resumed last year when Debmarine stepped in with a N$13 million sponsorship and now, in the second year of it’s three-year sponsorship, the marine diamond mining company has increased its sponsorship by close to 40 percent to N$18 million.

It’s a much-needed shot in the arm for the local football fraternity where teams have to travel long distances to honour their league obligations.

Northern teams like Rundu-based Julinho Sporting or newly-promoted Chula Chula, which will play their home matches at the Oshakati Stadium, and the southern team, Young Brazilians, which will play their home matches in Keetmanshoop, will have to cover more than 2 000km per weekend to play against each other.

Despite these obstacles, Julinho and Brazilians have held their own in the premiership, while early indications are that the other promoted teams, Khomas Nampol and Okakarara Young Warriors will also be competitive.

Khomas Nampol, which won the Southern Stream First Division last season, laid down a marker when they won a pre-season tournament, featuring four other Premiership teams and a visiting team from Botswana at the beginning of September.

Khomas Nampol beat Unam 1-0 and Young African by the same score to progress to the final where they beat Ongos FC 5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 full time draw.

They have an ambitious coach in Fortune Eichab and a settled squad with star players like Erich Tsam, Rivaldo Prins and Pakistan Hoveka, while their captain Erasmus Ikeinge was recently called up to the Brave Warriors squad.

Okakarara and Chula Chula will also be eager to make their mark in the premiership, while Brave Warriors coach, Collin Benjamin has already taken notice of their undoubted talents, calling up Chula Chula striker Alfeus Leevi and Okakarara defender Utjevera Rukata to the national squad.

How they, and the rest of the Premiership teams, will fare against African Stars, though is another matter, as ‘Starlile’ have already upped their game after last season’s record run, which saw them losing only one match, while they finished 12 points clear of second-placed Blue Waters at the top of the log.

As if that was not enough, Stars were very active in the transfer market and strengthened their team even more ahead of their continental campaign in the African Champions League.

They brought in the experienced Ghanaian coach Prince Koffie and made several more new signings from Africa, including Zambian wingback Joseph Lungu, Nigerian midfielders Michael Okolo and Hammed Onyenyi, and Ghanaian striker Peter Ernest Adiwoh.

They join a star-stacked squad teaming with Namibian internationals like Ronald Ketjijere, Willy Stephanus, Charles Hambira, Edmund Kambanda, Vitapi Ngaruka and Kamaijanda Ndisiro, as well as upcoming stars like Uetuura Kambato and Ndjiraeree Maharero.

Stars played numerous pre-season friendlies including four matches in Botswana, but their continental campaign was ultimately not successful as they narrowly lost their preliminary round tie on away goals to Zambian league champions Power Dynamos. Stars won the first leg in Johannesburg 2-1, but then lost a controversial second leg 1-0 in Ndola to a dubious penalty, while they also had an Adiwoh goal disallowed. Despite their exit, it was a promising debut by the Namibian champions on the continental stage and the experience gained will bode well for the future.


Blue Waters’ busy pre-season

Last season’s runners-up Blue Waters have had a busy pre-season, playing numerous matches at the coast and in northern Namibia, while they have also strengthened their squad with several new signings.

They include Life Fighters attacking midfielder Erwin Tjiuja, who was called up to the national squad this season; goalie Calvin Spiegel who rejoined the team from African Stars; Chula Chula striker Chester Itula; and Eleven Arrows defender Johannes Mutanga.

They also have one of the most exciting young strikers around in Pius Markias, but recently suffered a blow when their top goal scorer of last season, Junior Petrus joined a professional side in Kosovo.

Otjiwarongo-based Life Fighters had a great campaign last season, finishing third, and with an exciting young squad and an accomplished coach in Agnus Elemu they are aiming for greater honours this season.

Three of their star players last season, midfielders Devin Somseb and Lawrence Doeseb, as well as striker Eliakim Jackson were called up to the national squad, while other budding stars include Lazarus Naruseb and If Musinga.

The Otjozondjupa region, in fact, did very well last season with another Otjiwarongo-based side Mighty Gunners finishing fourth. Players like Roberto Rugam, Bernard Horaseb and Olzen Ameb stood out in the attack for the soldiers, while central defender Given Mutuezu made his national debut against Zimbabwe on 4 September.

With Okakarara Young Warriors also due to play their home matches in Otjiwarongo, the Otjozondjupa region is certainly developing into an important footballing hub.

Unam finished fifth last season after a poor start and with a strong management team headed by former Brave Warriors legends in coach Ronnie Kanalelo and his assistant Robert Nauseb, they could go further this season.

They made a coup by signing the exciting attacking midfielder Edmar Kamatuka from African Stars and with other budding young stars like Ngero Katua, Paulus Amutenya and Tjipe Karuuombe, who all made the national squad this year, they will fancy their chances this season.

Okahandja United were very competitive last season, eventually finishing sixth, while the exciting atttackers Michelino Hei-Gauseb, Stofell Witbeen and Uaondjarure Nakambare, and defender Gianluca Kahingunga form the backbone of a strong squad that is coached by former Brave Warriors defender Richard Gariseb.

Tigers had a disappointing season, finishing seventh, while they have also lost the services of one of their top strikers Itamunua Keimuine to Ongos FC. Their top goalscorer from last season Tangeni Shipahu is not getting any younger and might not be available, and a big responsibility will rest on their talisman winger Absalom Iimbondi to guide a young developing squad in the new season.

Tura Magic, which finished eighth last season, sold their premiership status and will now be known as Ongos Football Club. They will hope that the new cash injection will lead to a revival in their fortunes and their early season form certainly gives them hope for the future, after they narrowly lost to Khomas Nampol on penalties in the pre-season tournament final.

Orlando Pirates finished a disappointing 11th last season and have recalled the experienced and widely-travelled coach Ali Akan to replace Woody Jacobs, who joined the Botswana team, Matabele FC. Another former fan favourite Riaan Cloete has also come out of retirement and along with striker Sadney Urikhob they will hope to revive the Buccaneers’ fortunes.

Young African, Civics, Young Brazilians and Julinho Sporting make up the rest of this season’s premiership teams, and they are once again bound to be competitive. All in all there should be an exciting season in store for Namibia’s football loving fans.