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Namibia: Africa's Representative at the 2011 Fistball WCH

Namibia is the only representative of the African continent at the 13th Men's Fistball World Championship in Austria. It marks the tenth time that the country in south-western Africa has taken part in this tournament and in 2011 the team has set its sights on finishing 7th or 8th.

Fistball first became popular in Namibia at the beginning of the 20th century. German immigrants introduced the sport into the country which at that time was a German colony. In 1921, Namibia became a mandated territory of the Republic of South Africa and was known as South-West Africa. It was under this name that a team from the country appeared on the world stage at the second Men's World Championship in 1972. Since this debut, Namibia has taken part in every Fistball World Championship. The only tournaments the country had to miss were in Brazil (1976) and Argentina (1986), since no invitation was sent to Namibia for political reasons. Namibia's best result was 6th place in the final standings, which they first achieved in 1979 and have since repeated at subsequent World Championships.

Coach Stefan Grögli says that this year the team aims to finish 7th or 8th. The Swiss national, now living in Namibia, is preparing the Namibian national team for the tournament in Windhoek. To this end, regular training camps have been held since February 2011 and since May 2011 the players have convened once a week for team training in addition to the weekend training camps. This is possible because all the members of the national team play for clubs in Windhoek, the Namibian capital. The team departs for Europe on 28 July, 2011, stopping off first in Jona (CH) where two Namibian teams will take part in the Raiffeisen Obersee Masters. They will be joined there by Christian Schluep, the former Swiss international, who will be part of the coaching staff. He and Grögli will be responsible for the team during the WCH and will put the players through their paces during the week-long preparations in Switzerland. The Namibians will have to make use of this week not only to perfect their fistball skills, but also to get used to the European climate. The team lands in Vienna on 5 August.

Past experience shows that Namibia is generally on a par with the Italian and Chilean teams. But according to Michael Baas, the player with the highest number of appearances for the national team, geography is a great problem for Namibian fistball. As the only African country with a national fistball team, and owing to the high cost of travelling to South America and Europe, Namibia's players only very seldom have the chance to experience international playing conditions. In addition, some of the key players and promising prospects from the last World Championships have since withdrawn from the squad due to work commitments. So it will only be at the tournament itself that the team's potential will become evident.

The experience offered by the Fistball World Championship in Austria promises to be an overwhelming one for every member of the Namibian delegation. The players who have already taken part in a World Championship are eagerly awaiting an event that is organised to perfection and draws large crowds. Those competing for the first time can barely wait to experience the atmosphere in the arenas and the games featuring the leading fistball nations.

Although no fans will be travelling with the team, the players can be sure that many Namibians will be keeping a close eye on the internet web sites and the live tickers for the latest news on their national team. And in Austria itself Namibia can count on support: former youth international Gian Rudolph and several other Namibians living in Austria and Germany have stated their intention to be there in person to provide vocal support in the stadiums.

Namibia: Africa's Representative at the 2011 Fistball WCH