Namibia look to relive past glories at start of Cosafa Cup campaign

Cosafa Cup trophy
The 2017 Cosafa Cup, the annual southern African championship, is taking place in South Africa

Namibia's national team hope to overcome fitness issues as they begin their Cosafa Cup campaign in South Africa at the weekend with most of their players idle for months as the league in the country remains dormant.

Coach Ricardo Mannetti says a lack of match fitness "is bad because of the league" but says a quarter-final win over Lesotho in Saturday's quarter-final would give his side a chance to take the title again.

Namibia won the annual southern African championship two years ago.

Namibia secured the shock result in South Africa's North West Province after going through a rigorous test of physical endurance by playing six matches in the space of a fortnight - and it is a return to a happy hunting ground for Mannetti and a near-full strength squad - missing only three regulars.

But with the majority of the players home-based, the fact that the Namibian league has been dormant for more than 12 months means Mannetti's squad is nowhere near as ready as it should be.

The Namibian Premier League lost its sponsorship and has not kicked a ball since the 2015-16 season ended in April last year.

Rumours of backroom tussles between the league and the Namibia Football Association have also emerged in the Namibian media and may have hindered the search for a solution.

"The biggest headache for us at the moment is to get it together against Lesotho," added Mannetti in a BBC interview.

"I hope the league starts soon but at the moment it doesn't look like it. There will still be two-to-three months of meetings, constitutional reviews and all of that."

But with seven wins for Namibia in their last nine Cosafa Cup matches, Mannetti said he reminded his players everyday that "this is a cup that is winnable".

"It's a cup we can claim again and make history again, it will be good to put behind us all the troubles and worries that Namibian football has gone through over the last year."

Namibia enter the tournament at the quarter-final stage as one of the top six seeds. Their match against Lesotho on Saturday is preceded by Botswana taking on Zambia.

On Sunday, South Africa, the hosts and defending champions, play Tanzania, who on Thursday squeezed through as winners of Group A in the first round. Tanzania edged out Angola on goal difference.

The last quarter-final clash on Sunday night at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace pits Swaziland against Zimbabwe, who finished top of Group B.

Ovidy Karuru scored a hat trick on Friday as the Zimbabweans beat the Seychelles 6-0 and also went through on a superior goal difference, above Madagascar whose 4-1 win over Mozambique was not enough to avoid elimination.

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