As Namibian youth, we are thankful for the opportunity to play the game we love. These were the words of Mbitjita Kaeka, the captain of Athletic Club Football Academy (ACFA), the newly crowned champions of the Bank Windhoek Ramblers Under 21 Soccer Tournament. ACFA were crowned champions over the weekend when the tournament ended, after the remaining four teams, Kaizen Football Academy (KFA), ACFA, Kasaona, and Swallows, battled for the 2023 championship title.
"Bank Windhoek should spread out this tournament all over Namibia because talent needs exposure. It would make a huge difference in the youth's lives," said Kaeka. ACFA's winning coach, Nikie Gaweseb, noted that the tournament is what the Namibian youth needs for growth in soccer. "We like to have something like this for the younger boys to give them more game time. The tournament helps the under-20 boys to improve their soccer more," he said.
Asked how they defeated the defending champions, Kasaona, enroute to the finals, Gaweseb said that his team had to switch tactics because Kasaona was playing a pressing game and they were a bit physical. He added that his plan after the tournament is to grow in his coaching career.
Kaeka said that together with his team, they will now enjoy the win and prepare for the pre-season. "We are hoping to get call-ups from Premier League senior teams. The tournament was all about trying to get us into the national team," he said. As for his ultimate dream, Kaeka wants to play for Liverpool in the English Premier League. "I believe I am going to make it," he said.
The final match day
During the final match day, Group A winners KFA took on Group B runners-up Swallows in what promised to be a mouthwatering encounter. The game was even for the most part and the two teams exchanged chances. KFA took control of the game as two expertly executed goals by their marksman Thomas Sakues and a headed goal by Kavita Kavehungua gave KFA a 3:0 lead in the second half. Sakeus completed his hat trick and sent his team to the tournament's final. KFA ran out 4:0 winners to advance to the finals.
The second semi-final match saw the defending champions Kasaona take on ACFA. Kasaona began the game strong. They had good combination plays in the first fifteen minutes of the game and their persistence earned them a penalty, but unfortunately, Kasaona failed to convert their penalty. They soon scored to give them the lead through Kambirongo Tjinutjiwa. ACFA trailed for most of the game and just as it looked like Kasaona secured their place in the final, AFCA got a second in the 70th minute as a brace from Wesley !Owaseb and goals from Junior Mwazi and Shane Schmidt sent ACFA to the final as they ran away as 4:1 winners.
The final between AFCA and KFA was an evenly matched contest between two well-organized teams. Chances were few and far between and nothing could separate the two teams. However, ACFA took the lead in the second half of the game with a brilliant goal by Kelmer Antonio. KFA tried to push for an equalizer but to no avail. ACFA ran out 1:0 winners and as the 2023 Bank Windhoek-Ramblers U21 Tournament Champions.
"On behalf of the Ramblers Sports Club, we thank our sponsor Bank Windhoek for supporting youth football by exposing players to scouting by team principles for their respective teams. We look forward to the next event in July 2023 in Oshakati, whereafter we will announce the format of the tournament for the 2024 season," said the Chairperson of the Ramblers Soccer Club, Sedric van Turah. Kaeka and Gaweseb echoed van Turah’s sentiments and encouraged Bank Windhoek to continue investing in sports such as soccer. “Thank you, Bank Windhoek,” said Kaeka.