Baby Gladiators aim for draw against Nigeria

29 Dec 2015 14:50pm
WINDHOEK, 29 DEC (NAMPA) – The Under-17 national women’s side are positive ahead of their 2016 International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) Women’s U-17 World Cup qualifiers against Nigeria.
The ‘Baby Gladiators’ beat Botswana 3-2 on aggregate at the beginning of December to reach the third round of the 2016 FIFA World Cup preliminary rounds.
In the first leg, Namibia beat Botswana 2-1 away. They then drew 1-1 at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek.
The Baby Gladiators will now face Nigeria in the first leg qualifying tournament in Abuja on 08 January, with the return leg scheduled for Windhoek on 10 January 2016.
Speaking to Nampa on Monday, U-17 head coach Mervin Mbakera praised the players’ spirit in the camp, saying they are preparing for a very physical game.
“Most of the players were busy with school and examinations, so we could not include them. We also had two injuries, but the doctors did a good job, so we do not have any major injuries,” said Mbakera
He added that a few changes that have been made to the team that played against Botswana, meaning they have more depth and options when injuries arise.
The coach also noted that the Namibia Football Association (NFA)’s technical staff members have been supporting the team throughout, which is good motivation for the young players.
“In order for the team to advance to the next round we will have to keep it tight and not concede soft goals, but a draw will be a very, very good result,” he said.
The Baby Gladiators became the first junior team to win an away game for Namibia when they beat Botswana.
Mbakera also hailed the introduction of the NFA Women’s Super League and the Galz and Goals project for girls aged between 10 and 15, saying it is a chain of development enhancing female players’ knowledge on technical aspects such as match fitness and player fitness.
“We introduced Windhoek-based players in this league, and it helped us tremendously. We are progressing at a fast pace and with more corporate companies coming on board, it will be a massive development, and women football in Namibia has a bright future.” he said.
Team captain, Sharon Pieters said that the game against Nigeria will not be a walk in the park, but preparations are at an advanced stage for the match.
“All the players are giving a 100 per cent commitment to training, and they are really working hard. We are not going to get big headed that we won against Botswana, because Nigerian has tough girls, but we will just work extra hard,” said Pieters.
The winner between Namibia and Nigeria will face either Zambia or South Africa.