Risser, Namibia's White Warrior
Oliver Risser is a battler, both on and off the pitch. So much
so that his Namibia team-mates have nicknamed the 27-year-old the
"I'm not sure where the name came from. But I'm the type of player who always gives 110 percent and my team-mates compare me with Gennaro Gattuso of AC Milan," Risser said in an interview with FIFA.com.
Risser and his brother Wilko were brought up by their German parents in Namibia, and it was there that he first played football, turning out for FC Ramblers in the Namibian capital of Windhoek. For eight years now, Risser has been playing in Germany on more or less professional terms, with Borussia Dortmund's reserves among other clubs.
Nowadays, he only returns to Namibia for holidays - or to play for the national team. "It's always a pleasure to come home to Namibia. When I walk down the streets there, I feel free," enthused the defensive midfielder.
However, there was little to be upbeat about after Namibia's
5-1 defeat against Morocco in their opening match of the CAF Africa
Cup of Nations Ghana 2008.
, said Risser to FIFA.com. "There are days when you'd be better off staying in bed, and this was one of them. Morocco weren't particularly strong, we were just poor."
Monday's defeat does not change how Risser feels when he pulls on a Namibia jersey, however. "It's my homeland. We're fourth generation Namibians and it was my choice to play for the national team. It's a wonderful feeling to be able to play football for your country," he said.
His brother Wilko unfortunately did not make it to Ghana after coach Ari Schans decided against picking the centre-forward, who plies his trade for Schalke 04's second team. "I'm missing him already. We could have done with him but the new coach didn't want him in the squad," his brother explained.
Oliver himself is currently without a club - a fact difficult to
believe after his displays in Namibia's warm-up matches for the
Africa Cup of Nations. The battling midfielder has been full of
running, in particular against a star-studded Senegal side
including the likes of Bolton Wanderers striker El Hadji Diouf.
"I just can't explain why I haven't got a club at the moment. It can be frustrating at times, but I have to admit that in the past, I've sometimes made the wrong career move," said Risser, whose last club was Bonner SC in the German fourth division.
His lack of a contract cannot be down to his footballing skills. After all, the Namibian No8 is looking very much at home on the world stage at the Africa Cup of Nations. "There can be no doubt as to the quality of African football. Africans might even be a little bit better than their European counterparts, but they just need a little bit more organisation and better team management.
"That's something that needs to be improved ahead of the 2010 World Cup," said Risser. "The World Cup will be a big event for the whole continent and will give real impetus to Southern Africa, both to the host nation and to the neighbouring countries."
Namibia find themselves in what Risser describes as "a group well within our reach" along with Kenya, Zimbabwe and Guinea in the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010™. There are more pressing engagements before then, however, namely Thursday's tie against Africa Cup of Nations hosts Ghana and Monday's final group match against Guinea.