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Home / Namibia’s pride - Nombango Tjombonde...the country’s first ball boy at Afcon 2023

Namibia’s pride - Nombango Tjombonde...the country’s first ball boy at Afcon 2023

2024-02-20  Strauss Lunyangwe

Namibia’s pride - Nombango Tjombonde...the country’s first ball boy at Afcon 2023

In every young football enthusiast’s heart resides a dream—a dream to stand amidst football legends, basking in the glory of the beautiful game. For Nombango Isac Tjombonde, a 14-year-old talent from Windhoek, this dream transcended into reality as he was handpicked to represent Namibia as the first ball boy at the prestigious 2023 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Ivory Coast this year.

Tjombonde, a student at Windhoek International High School and a budding player for Athletic Club Football Academy (ACFA) U/15, shared his exhilarating journey. It all began during their spirited participation in the Kapstadt Cup held in Cape Town last year, where his exceptional skills caught the eye of talent scouts of the Confederation of African Football (Caf).

“I had a good performance as a centre-back throughout the tournament, and they chose two players from our club. In the end, they decided to pick me because I had a better overall performance than the other player,” he said.

The Caf representatives handpicked four additional boys from different African countries to partake in the unique experience of witnessing Africa’s premier and meticulously organised football tournament from the sidelines.

“It’s every boy’s dream to eventually meet football legends, be it from Africa or Europe,” reflected Tjombonde.

His selection as a ball boy for Afcon 2023 stands as a testament to his passion for the sport and dedication to honing his abilities.

In addition to embarking on an 11-hour journey to attend the final match, which pitted Ivory Coast against Nigeria and culminated in a thrilling victory for the host nation by a score of 2-1, Tjombonde found himself deeply inspired by the experience of witnessing the game firsthand.

“I mean, it was a wonderful experience. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; the stadiums were big. 57 000 people were watching the finals. I loved it, and I feel like it’s going to inspire the younger generation to never give up.”

TotalEnergies offered ball kids the opportunity to participate in the biggest competitions on the continent as ball kids. The opportunity offers boys and girls the chance to realise their dreams and get as close as possible to world-class pitches and players.

“I was in the left corner of Nigeria in the first half and I didn’t get many balls. But in the second half, I got to pick up four balls. Ivory Coast was putting pressure on Nigeria because it was one zero at halftime,” he explained.

“Compared to television, what I saw on the pitch was very physical. The ball moved quite fast; it was a different experience just to be there on the sidelines. 

They are very big and buff, but on television, they look tiny. They are also tall compared to when you see them on TV.”

His father, Isac Tjombonde, accompanied him to the final and said they are very privileged to have their son selected to be a ball boy at the 2023 Afcon finals. “It was a lifetime experience to be present and watch the finals live; it’s very different compared to watching on TV.

The experience stemmed from witnessing a different culture and a country that loves football in the company of Africa’s greatest footballers.

“I am now waiting for a moment to watch my son at a similar tournament one day,” he said.

“I remain grateful and proud of my son’s achievements since he commenced playing football and remain confident for greater achievements in the future. His selection for the national U/15 team sets him on the international trajectory that we have been working towards since he was four years old.”

Tjombonde said the atmosphere was so electrifying that his ear hurt every time the goals went in.

“I have gained more confidence because of the tournament; I loved it. I got to meet the South African players and got a chance to squeeze in a selfie when the final match ended.”

The ACFA player feels players should take every tournament seriously, as opportunities of this magnitude can happen out of nowhere just because of the right attitude on the field. 

Tjombonde was also part of the U/15 national squad that lost out to Zimbabwe in the Cosafa Cup tournament, finishing in fourth place.
Young Tjombonde hails from a lineage deeply rooted in the annals of Namibian football history, tracing its origins back to the illustrious Brave Warriors class of 1996, led by the legendary captain, Bimbo Tjihero (his uncle), Tjombonde senior, his father, a social footballer, and his mother, Kapena Tjombonde, a former national netball team player who made it to the world championships in 1995.

With such a rich family legacy echoing through the corridors of Namibian sports, Tjombonde carries within him the aspirations of generations past and present, fueled by a burning desire to carve his path in the professional arena.

“Everyone can see it in me; people have been telling me that I am going to make it one day and probably play for the national team again,” he echoed. “I want to play in the U/17 national team and maybe move to South Africa and maybe play for one of the teams there. Because the level there compared to Namibia may be much higher, and there is a better chance of getting to European teams. I would like to end up playing for Manchester City one day,” he concluded.

2024-02-20  Strauss Lunyangwe

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