This Namibian Junior Men’s inline hockey team has become the first ever African men’s team to reach the Top 8 at the World Championships in Barcelona, a feat that showed the world what a “small country” can do.
In their quest at the championship the Namibians have won a game against Sweden, a Top 8 team and have beaten last year’s silver medallists, Italy. Additionally, Namibia has outpaced powerhouse teams such as France, Switzerland and Italy to name a few. Namibia has been the talk of the tournament and has made strong, big waves through the entire hockey community of the world.
It was 40 degrees in Barcelona at the World Championships for Inline Hockey and the only thing hotter than the sun was the Namibian Junior Men’s team.
Namibia was placed in Pool B with last year’s silver medal team Italy, New Zealand and Ireland. The Junior Men have been working hard for a year and had their hopes and sights set on finally cracking the top 8 at the World Championships.
Namibia won their Pool with three wins and no losses. Scoring 34 goals and conceding 3. This dominance extended to their match against Italy where Namibia won 5-1. Walking around the arena where the matches are, held you can see lots of players’ Google searching where Namibia is… it’s the talk of the tournament.
The win against Italy was Namibia’s first ever win versus a top 8 team and secured Namibia a coveted spot among the top 8 teams in the world. Namibia’s first playoff game would be against the United States of America, the defending World Champs.
The game against USA was for a chance to advance to the Medal round of the top 8. USA came out hard and scored 2 goals in the first 2 minutes of play. Nerves and lack of experience factored in to a bad start for Namibia. From there Namibia settled down and began to find their feet. For the next 35 minutes Namibia fought their way back and with just under three minutes left in the game the score was 5-3.
Namibia, being down, had to pressure for the last 2 minutes of the game in an effort to get the puck and hope for a good scoring chance, however the USA was equal to the pressure and scored. The Namibians were unfazed and continued to pressure and do whatever they could to find a way to win, however, this was not Namibia’s game and the final score saw the USA on top winning 8-4.
The next morning Namibia was at it again playing against Sweden for placement 5-8. Namibia came out soft and found themselves down 3-0 early in the game. The team focused and got to work to fix early mistakes. Namibia slowly began to chip away at the Swedish lead and by halftime the score was 3-3. The second half was a back and forth affair with Sweden taking a lead and then Namibia scored the equalizer. Late in the game with the score 4-4 Sweden scored with less than 2 minutes left. Namibia pulled their goalie in favour of another attacking player and scored with 42 seconds left in the game to tie it up and send the game to golden-goal overtime. The entire overtime Namibia was on the attack, their fitness and work ethic on display. Sweden was hanging on for their life. With 19 seconds left in the overtime Namibia scored the golden goal and won the game 6-5. The overtime goal was scored by Max Finkeldey.
The win marked Namibia’s first ever win in the top 8 for a Men’s team. Namibia will play Columbia for 5th/6th place on Thursday.
Christian Coetzee is leading all goal scorers in the entire tournament with 16, while team captain Amandus Roettcher is leading all players in the entire tournament in assists with 11. Namibia’s goalies: Ruben Bacher and Nicola Reviglio have been great in the nets, while the entire Namibian team has been effectively contributing to the scoring and defence of the team.
Amandus Roettcher had this to say about his team: ”I am really happy with our play so far! We have had some ups and downs, but have come out to play every game. Our goal was to show the world what we can do and that a “small” country like Namibia in terms of available pool of Inline Hockey Players can compete with the big boys and I think we have earned the respect of many countries and have been successful during this tour. I am proud of my teammates!”
This Namibian Junior Men’s Team has become the first ever Men’s Team to reach the top 8 at World’s.