Namibia’s recent 2 – 1 win over 4th ranked African giant Cameroon was by no means a fluke or chance. The Tafel Lager Brave Warriors’ recent meteoric rise has been one to applaud, after the team’s sub-regional and continental performances have been nothing short of a fairytale.

Of course, fortune favours the brave. The Brave Warriors, just like everyone else in Group C of the Afcon qualifiers, have benefited from the suspension of Kenya from all forms of football; and now coupled with some excellent results, a draw against Burundi in June will all but confirm Namibia to its 4th African Cup of Nations participation.

Yes, the fourth Afcon dance. We have been to only three Afcon tournaments in thirty years, literally once every decade. The first was the unforgettable one in Burkina Faso in 1998, where as debutants we were happy with coming back with a sole point in 3 games. Comforted more by the 7 goals we scored and the intensity which the team exhibited. In 1998, the Brave Warriors in Burkina Faso were at home among Africa’s best. Forget Benni McCarthy’s quadruple annihilation in the last game.

It was the result of talent development, professionalism and resilience, something that would have seemed far-fetched in 1995, five years after Namibian independence.

Coached by Rustern Mogane, they had little to no pedigree in the international game. The talent development of Lolo Goraseb and Congo Hindjou had started as early as 1996 when the squad became a regional Cosafa fearsome bunch, reaching the finals in 1997, and final four in 1998.

So Burkina Faso ‘98 had been a long time coming for that squad.

After ’98, the powers that be had sought the tutelage of international European coaches to steer the Brave Warriors, who now had a couple of players scouring the diaspora; Ronnie Kanalalelo, Mohammed Ouseb, Ricardo Manneti, Robert Nauseb in South Africa, Collin Benjamin, Razy Tjikuzu in Europe, among others.

Alas, that became the Achilles heel of our golden generation, as a string of international coaches diluted the original Brave Warriors soup.

In the same Cosafa tournament that had moulded our golden generation, the squad became punching bags, characterised by 1st round exists from the Cosafa for almost a decade from 1999.

It was until one Ben Bamfuchile drove all the way from Zambia, roped in by Barry Rukuro and John Muinjo, to bring back the soup that first reached the Cosafa tournament quarterfinals . Lo and behold, we then qualified for the 2008 Afcon tournament in Ghana. When Bamfuchile came by, the Brave Warriors were lingering in the lower levels of Fifa’s ranking.

It had been a decade long wait for us to be at our second African soccer showcase. Like our debut performance, we also finished the tournament with just one draw. Still in 2008, the passion and fieriness of ’98 was missing. Morocco tore us apart with a 5 – 1 drubbing. Not long after, Ben Bamfuchile passed on.

Back to the drawing board.

The Brave Warriors regrouped and began focusing on the Cosafa. We then waited seven years after 2008 for the national team to win the Cosafa tournament in 2015. There was a fresh sense of ease and belongingness as we reached the quarter finals of the Cosafa from 2016 until 2019, despite a few near misses in between.

By 2019 the squad was back on the continental showpiece, qualifying for the 2019 Afcon tournament. The Brave Warriors footballing god seemed to have set a standard, qualify for one Afcon tournament in every decade, since independence.

Joslin Kamatuka scored our only goal at our third continental exhibition, as we came back from Egypt with tails between our hinds, again.

But the biggest lesson for the Brave Warriors was not in Egypt. The key takeaway of the year was that Namibia could develop into a respected African football country that frequently – perhaps not always, but frequently – qualifies for major tournaments.

That year Namibia had debuted at the CHAN tournament strictly for local based players, the African Nations Championship (CHAN). We cannot qualify for any major tournament if we fail to make an impression at the smaller competitions.

Cosafa had long shown us that, but we kept ignoring. Grassroots at continental level.

In 2019, the Brave Warriors made it to the Cosafa quarterfinals and also to the CHAN quarter finals losing to eventual winners Morocco. It was not bad. And on top of that, just like in 1998, we needed a local coach.

A byproduct of the Brave Warriors’ success in CHAN is that they are no longer underdogs, a tag the team benefitted from, dropping deep to lurk on the counter.

This new CHAN status could compel to seize the initiative and play more expansively against minor opposition, like Chad, Burundi, Malawi and Benin.

This time the Brave Warriors were playing with renewed vigour and a sense of brevity in their losses. Unfortunately, this 2019 continuity was stopped in 2020 at the CHAN tournament when a bout of Covid-19 hit the camp, leading to a dismal performance in our second CHAN tournament. There was a new level of obfuscation, although coach Bobby Samaria and his assistant Collin Benjamin continued with the lessons of the past years.

Fast forward to 2022, without a competitive league this Brave Warriors side, an extension of the 2019 Afcon squad, reached the finals of the Cosafa cup, narrowly losing to Zambia.

Fast forward to 2023, Collin Benjamin now in charge, a local league now in play, this Brave Warriors side – an extension of the Cosafa cup runners up squad – obliterates Cameroon and is one foot into its fourth Afcon tournament. Breaking the myth that the Brave Warriors only feature at AFCON once in a decade.

Demystifying that old belief means, come Ivory Coast January 2024, the Brave Warriors may eventually turn up the heat. Besides taming history, we brag of possessing Africa’s best striker at the moment in Peter Shalulile. It has been a long time coming and now that bravery is here, it is here to stay. See you in Abidjan, they don’t call it “lil Paris” for nothing.