EXPERIENCE told on Saturday as African Stars overcame Unam 1-0 in the Debmarine Namibia Cup final to complete a domestic league and cup double for the second time in their trophy-laden history.
The victory, courtesy of substitute Treasure Kauapirura's second-half winner, also marked the fifth time that Stars have won the FA Cup since independence, making them outright record holders, having previously been tied with the once mighty Chief Santos on four titles apiece.
A Starlile side teeming with seasoned campaigners had to muster all their experience to fend off a sprightly and youthful Unam bent on dampening the spirits of their rivals' passionate following, who dominated the terraces at a windy Sam Nujoma Stadium.
“It's always gratifying. Winning the match was special, given that we were under extreme pressure, and everybody took it for granted that we should win this one,” winning coach Bobby Samaria, who is out of contract at the end of the month, told reporters.
“Our emphasis was not per se on [winning] the double itself, it was on winning the match. The moment you win the match, the double sorts itself out.”
Stars withstood pressure from their vibrant opponents, whose ploy was to stretch the match and capitalise with their pacey attack.
However, Stars' old heads held firm, and went in at the break with a clean sheet after Unam had a goal controversially chalked off by the competition's best referee Nehemia Shovaleka when Ivan Kamberipa put the ball into his own net in added time.
Shovaleka adjudged Unam forward Macgyver Manchester United to have handled the ball whilst bearing down on goal and before Kamberipa stuck out a leg in a desperate bid to clear the ball, which skewed off his boot and looped over advancing keeper Mbazuvara Ratanda into an unguarded net.
After the break, Samaria hauled off ineffective striker Panduleni Nekundi and holding midfielder Alfeus Handura in favour of the hard-running Kauapirura and creative Neville Tjiueza.
The changes proved to be a masterstroke as the pair helped turn the tide in Stars' favour.
“Unam did exceptionally well during the first half. I was worried in the first half, as things definitely did not go our way. But I knew going into the break that we would correct that, and we did,” the tactician said of the change in approach.
Super-sub Kauapirura escaped his marker at the near post and deftly nodded Stars ahead from an in-swinging corner delivery by Ambrosius Amseb on 74 minutes.
“Treasure came on, did the job, and scored the goal for us. I must also give credit to our goalkeeper; he kept us in this match with one minute to go. They got a clear chance, and he saved it,” noted Samaria.
While the match will not, debatably, go down as a classic, it was a competitive affair, and one in which Unam played no small part. The added battle of wits between Samaria and 'distant cousin' Ronnie Kanalelo in either dugout also added to the occasion.
“I must say Ronnie took the defeat in his stride, and I reminded him that football is not played over 45 minutes, it's played over 90 minutes. They had the upper hand in the first half, and we had the upper hand in the second half,” he said.
“I think experience played a role. Experience cannot be bought; you need to go through the system to gain experience.”
The 2018 FA Cup winners pocketed N$500 000, while Unam got N$250 000. The champions also bagged the majority of individual prizes, with Samaria winning the coach of the tournament award worth N$15 000; attacking midfielder Godwin Jena sharing the top scorer award with Civics' Donald Geiseb (N$10 000 each) for their eight goals apiece; while Ratanda won the goalkeeper of the tournament award (N$15 000).
Unam midfielder Marcel Papama won the N$20 000 player of the tournament prize.
Samaria is uncertain whether he will be in charge of Stars next season, but there will be no shortage of suitors should he opt for a new challenge. “My contract is ending at the end of May, so whether I will be the coach of Stars [beyond then], I don't know. We've started to discuss, but nothing is penned down yet. I completed my assignment, and now I'm looking forward to the future,” he added.
- Title: African Star Won the Deb marine cup 2018
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- Date: 9:58 PM