Rudolf Bester would like to revel in the delights of anonymity when he goes home to Namibia to represent his country. “I tell my friends to cut it out when they call me ‘Professional’,” he said, explaining the pressure of being one of the few current footballing exports from the southern African nation.
In recent years, the 28-year-old from Otjiwarongo has taken over the mantle as their key player, and there is a burden of expectation on his shoulders as the Brave Warriors seek to re-establish their credentials after a barren run of results. The South Africa-based winger continued: “There is pressure, but I love playing for the national team, coming home to represent my country. It is a real thrill.”
Bester recently joined Orlando Pirates, the South African Premiership champions, who have a massive following in neighbouring Namibia. There is even a major club in the Namibian capital Windhoek named after the Soweto team, and thousands of supporters for whom Bester is now even more of an inspiration.
For now, club matters are banished to the back burner as Bester and his team-mates set their sights on 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifying. On Friday, they are away to Djibouti in the first leg of their opening-round tie, and then they are in Windhoek next Tuesday to host the return match.
There is pressure, but I love playing for the national team, coming home to represent my country. It is a real thrill.
In the South Africa 2010 preliminaries, the Namibians fell at the first qualifying group with only victories over Kenya and Zimbabwe to keep morale high. Similarly, in qualifying for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2012, they finished bottom of their section with only a home triumph over Gambia as consolation. For Bester and Co, an initial play-off with Djibouti is merely a prelude to the next round, which should again throw up a massive challenge.
He said: “To be honest we don’t know anything about Djibouti. We’ve obviously seen their Ranking but that’s all the info we have. If we can win away on Friday that would be the best scenario, because then we come home for the second leg. We all know we need to get through this tie and into the next stage.”
If the 127th-positioned Namibia succeed against Djibouti, who are 195th on the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, then the Warriors will advance to a group that includes Ghana, Sudan and Zambia – all teams that have qualified for the upcoming CAF Africa Cup of Nations.
“That’s tough draw!" said Bester. "Ghana are a very strong team, but at least we know them. We’ve watched them play at the last World Cup finals and many other times too. It will be a privilege to play against some of their top players.” Bester is also quick to point out that when Ghana met Namibia at the Cup of Nations in 2008, the hosts won only 1-0 at the Accra Sports Stadium.
Bester thinks Namibia are in a transitional phase, with caretaker coach Bernard Kaanjuka picking a mix of experienced players and new faces promoted from the country’s U-17 and U-20 sides. He said: “You can’t compare us with the Namibia team that went to the 1998 Nations Cup or even the side in 2008. For now, we are building a team. It is mostly young guys who will gain experience.”
Along with a call for patience, Bester feels he has an important role to play in this development: “I’m always there to help and always happy to play for my country. The younger players look up to me and that means I don’t want to disappoint when I put on the national colours. When I’m called up there are many who put their hopes on me, and that’s why I always try to do my best. I try to lead by example.”