The national Under-17 women’s football team assistant coach, Tapiwa Gaebolae has blamed poor calls by the referee for their elimination from the 2016 World Cup qualifiers.
The local women lost 3-2 on aggregate to Namibia after playing to a 1-1 draw at Sam Nujoma Stadium in Namibia last weekend.
Namibia had put themselves in an advantage when they won 2-1 in the first leg played at the National Stadium a fortnight ago. Gaebolae said most of the calls by the referees were in favour of the home team.
“We do not want to sound like bitter losers, but the referee robbed us of a clear penalty and most of his decisions were favourable to our opponents.
Mitchell Abueng’s injury also had an impact in our play,” she said. “Players have different qualities that they bring to the game so her injury really cost us.”
The local girls broke the deadlock 25 minutes into the game in Namibia through Abueng. They were however dealt a blow when she was later stretched off the field due to an injury after she was brought down in the box in the 42nd minute, but the referee did not call for a foul.
The local women’s dreams of advancing to the second round of the qualifiers were shattered when Namibian attacker, Kylie Van Wyk, tapped in a cross from Beverly Uueziua to level the matters in the 60th minute.
Gaebolae said they had insight on their opponents' style of play but could not match it, as most of the local girls’ exposure to competitive football is not up to scratch.
“We knew Namibia would play long balls, so we had to come up with a plan to counter that.
But most of our players do not have game time at their teams and therefore lack basics skills like composure in front of the goal,” she said.
She acknowledged that they had a mammoth task, facing a team that had been together for a long time. The majority of the Namibian squad members were players from Girls and Goals Academy, which groom aspiring players from a tender age of 10.
“We have been together for a month, while they have been training together for years. The first leg was our first international game as a team and we did not have international exposure so that had an impact on the way we played.
We would have liked to have an international friendly before the game,” she said.
Namibia will face Nigeria in the second round and the winner of the two-legged encounter will face South Africa. Only three countries will represent Africa at the World Cup to be in held in Jordan next September.