The women’s national team, nicknamed the Mares, will start their demanding journey in a bid to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games.
The Mares take on Namibia in the first leg of the preliminary round of the qualifiers at the National Stadium at 6pm.
Sharps Shooting Stars’ assistant coach, Alex Malete will lead the team on an interim basis after head coach, Gaoletlhoo ‘Ronaldo’ Nkutlwisang left camp due to a family bereavement.
Malete will become the youngest African coach to lead an international team at just 29 years of age, five weeks and 35 days.
He is set to become the second youngest in the world after Northern Irish tactician, Johnathan McKinstry, who coached the Sierra Leone men’s team at just 27-years-old in 2012.
Having been involved in the women’s game since 2012, this evening’s assignment is Malete’s biggest. The former Double Action coach said he is up for the task.
He said his technical team has insight on what the opponents are going to offer on the day as he rallied for support from the fans.
“This is a very good squad, like Namibia we have been inactive since the COSAFA Championships. We have their tapes, so we prepared specifically looking at how our opponents play,” Malete said at a press conference on Wednesday.
“We are going to play according to our strengths, we have a lot of players with speed and great techniques, and they are able to pass the ball so you should expect that on Friday. We are playing the first leg at home; we should make most of it. There is nothing like playing in front of a great crowd, we should utilise the opportunity and make the stage the most uncomfortable for the away team.”
The Mares are boosted by the inclusion of the foreign-based duo of Thuto Ramafifi and Sedilame Bosija. Ramafifi has been on top form for the Salem University team in the US. She has scored 27 goals and assisted a further 11 in just 17 games. Bosija on the other hand has been Bloemfontein Celtic’s first choice goalkeeper since her arrival in 2017.
On the opposite bench, Malete will face a very experienced coach in Brian Isaacs. The 51-year-old is a six-time Namibia Premier League champion, making him the most successful coach in the country. He has coached the men’s U-17, U-20, U-23 national teams and was also an assistant coach of the senior team.
The Brave Gladiators have been preparing for the game for the past two months and they are boosted by the country’s active women’s football league.
Isaacs has named a very strong squad that includes two foreign-based players in skipper, Zenatha Coleman who has been in excellent form for Valencia in the Spanish League, and Vewe Kotjipati who is playing in Germany.
However, US-based Anouschka Kordom was not considered due to injury. The Mares are ranked 151st in the world just four places above the bottom placed team while the Gladiators are on number 128. The second leg will be played in Windhoek on April 9. The winner of the two-legged tie will face South Africa in the second of five rounds of the qualifiers.