Namibia is the only African country that represents its continent in Inline Hockey at the World Roller Games 2019. Despite this, the Namibian team won sixth-place finish in the Junior World Championship, after leaving in Italy, runner-up in 2018, out of the eight best on the planet. Now, the senior team is looking to also play a good role in the Senior World Cup, a feat for a country where the tradition of this sport goes back a little over 20 years ago.
Namibia's Inline Hockey history goes back to “1996 when some crazy kids from the United States took advantage of a field that nobody used,” explains Holger Mentzel, president of the Namibia Ice and Inline Hockey Association (NIIHA). "From there, Inline Hockey was born in the country," adds Mentzel. This also explains that all the players in his team are white since the discipline has a special following among the population with European roots.
Although it is not a country with many traditions like the United States or Eastern Europe, since those beginnings with those "crazy kids" the country is getting involved in Inline Hockey. For this, the national federation has been hiring expert players in the discipline to increase the level.
Some of them are Philippe Boudreault, a Canadian who currently holds the position of male coach and technical director of the Spanish national team; o Dave Hammond, coach of the women's team and captain of the Canadian national team, as well as being the current manager of the NIIHA project. "I came here because of the photos and videos that Philippe taught me, and now I have been here with my wife and children for several years and it is one of the best places to live," says Hammond.
Despite the recent tradition of Namibia in this sport, the president is proud "of the steps being taken by national teams." In fact, less than a month ago Namibian territory organized the third edition of the African Cup in Swakopmund, a tournament involving two national teams from Namibia, senior and junior, and other teams from South Africa, the United Kingdom and Germany. "A competition that was a success", according to the president of the federation.
The Africans are ambitious and want to go a step further by trying to "bring the World Cup to Namibia in 2022," concludes Dave Hammond. If it ends up being that way, the future of Inline Hockey, a discipline with roots in Ice Hockey, will pass through this country of Southeast Africa.
PHOTO: N. Olano/WRG