Ronald Ketjijere is already assured a place in Namibian footballing history. The midfielder, who plays his club football in the South African Premier League, captained the Brave Warriors to their first-ever trophy: the COSAFA Cup.
The 27-year-old shared the recipe for success with *FIFA.com *and revealed his hopes for the forthcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ draw. The southern African country of Namibia has little to show for their efforts since joining FIFA in 1992.
Two appearances at the finals of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations (1998 and 2008), as well as two runners-up finishes in the regional COSAFA Cup were the only bragging rights the country's football fans had – at least until May this year when the Brave Warriors beat Mozambique in the final of the COSAFA Cup. Ketjijere explained recently in an exclusive interview that the Brave Warrior's new style could be a building block for future achievements.
“Our success is based on team unity, team spirit and togetherness," Ketjijere said. "We had a lot of young players in our COSAFA Cup squad, and they were welcomed by the older experienced players, who had the discipline to help the youngsters find their ways. Previously the way in which young players were welcomed into the team was not encouraging for them, but that has changed now."
Ironically Namibia's start was poor, and they were largely written off after being held to a goalless draw by the Seychelles in their first match. “I told the players that not all is lost, that we could still go through if we won the next two matches. And that is what we did,” said Ketjijere, who credited the turnaround to giving the side confidence when they went to a penalty shootout with Zambia in the quarter-finals.
“We really believed in ourselves and scored all five of or shots. Our coach had said when we arrived at the tournament that we were there for one thing only – and that was to win the cup. Each and every player was ready to buy into that idea.”
Looking to qualifying
Ketjijere said the historic success would help the team in the forthcoming Russia 2018 qualifying campaign, no matter who they were drawn with. “None of that is within our power. We just have to wait and hope. At the end of the day, to become a world or African champion, or even COSAFA Cup champion you have to face these big guns. The same goes for qualifying. If you want to play with the best, you have to beat the best to get there.
“We know that even if we get easy opponents, the tougher ones will come eventually. And really, there are no easy teams. Any team that you face is there to fight for the country's pride. Anything is possible nowadays in football. There are no big teams that can't be beaten.”
Ketjijere says that captaining the side in the World Cup qualifying campaign will mean a lot to him. “The Namibian nation has rallied behind the team because we are getting favourable results, and we don't want to disappoint them," he said. "We really want to go out there to do well.
"As leader of the team, I have to encourage the younger players. I tell them that it is just another game of football. There is nothing different. The ball is the same, the pitch is the same, so we have our chances. We will go into the campaign full of confidence. We need to prepare well and play a lot of friendlies.”
The footballing lawyer
It is not only on the field of play that Ketjijere has excelled. He has managed to combine the demands of professional football, being father to a two-year-old daughter with studying and has just completed a law degree.
“I started a law degree in Namibia and completed my Baccalaureate Juris in 2011 and wanted to do my LLB there, but then had the opportunity to play for the University of Pretoria in the PSL," Ketjijere said. "They said I could also study there, so I did that.
“It was a tough ask to do everything at the same time, but when you are ambitious in life, you do it. You never know what can happen in football. You can break your leg tomorrow and then you are left without anything. It is not a reliable career.
"This is something that I have been telling younger players. I do not think it is the end of my education road yet, and I will probably register to do a Masters degree next year.”
And who knows, it may help him stay in football even at the end of his playing days. “I could see myself working for something like FIFPro, the world players' union,” he says.