An immense sense of pride cloaked Namibia on Sunday night following Peter Shalulile and Deon Hotto’s crowning at the South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) awards.
The pair bagged three top awards worth a combined N$530 000. League winners Mamelodi Sundowns’ hit man Shalulile (28) was the biggest winner, earning N$450 000 for being voted DSTV Premiership player of the season and player’s player of season.
Orlando Pirates winger Hotto (29) got the N$80 000-MTN8 Last Man Standing award. The Namibian international was instrumental in the Buccaneers’ MTN8 triumph.
It was just reward for outstanding and consistent performances at the South African powerhouses, said ex-Hamburger SV utility man Collin Benjamin, himself one of the Namibia’s success stories abroad.
The duo are exemplary ambassadors and role models for compatriots to aspire to.
“This is fantastic, a very wonderful achievement for these two young men and the country. It’s moments like these that make you feel so proud to be Namibian,” said Benjamin, who spent over a decade campaigning in Germany’s top tier.
“To achieve what they have is not easy. It takes hard work, discipline and sacrifice. It’s especially much harder when you’re a foreigner because you have to work much harder than the locals to make it.”
Following a breakthrough debut topflight season when he scored 19 times across all competitions for unfancied Highlands Park in 2019-20, Shalulile went on to cement his status as a fearsome forward after a big-money move to PSL champions Sundowns.
The Tura Magic product was directly involved in 30 goals this past season, scoring 22 and assisting eight.
Shalulile dethroned Sundowns teammate Themba Zwane of the Footballer of the Season and Player’s Player of the Season crowns. The former prize is voted exclusively by the premiership coaches while the latter is by all the players in the league.
Last year, Hotto won the KickOff Footballer of the Season prize after starring for Wits for which he earned a lucrative transfer to the Soweto Giants.
“As foreigners, there was immense pressure on both to show that they deserved their pay cheques and were not there to make up the numbers,” said Tura Magic co-director Isack Hamata.
“I speak for myself, for Tura Magic and hopefully for all of Namibia when I say our boys really did us proud. What it shows is that Namibia can mix with the best if given a chance.
“As Tura Magic, Peter’s achievement is an inspiration to continue our development work and deliver more players to foreign markets.”
Those still campaigning domestically, should aspire to reach the duo’s level or scale new heights, Benjamin said.
“Talent is a basic requirement [to succeed]. The rest is down to effort and your mindset,” said Benjamin.
“These two understand what it means to be a professional athlete. We don’t see what they are doing behind the scenes, we only see the awesome results. But I can tell you that certain worldly pleasures were sacrificed to get this good and be so consistent.”
Benjamin and Hamata forecast that Namibia is likely to export more players in the near future on the evidence of the award winning PSL stars’ quality.
“There are coaches and scouts looking at Peter and thinking, ‘let me go to Namibia and look for another Shalulile to improve my team’,” said Benjamin.
“This will strengthen the national team and put our country on the map,” Hamata added.
“Namibian players must draw inspiration from our representatives in South Africa and also work hard to get there or even go beyond our African borders. Nothing is impossible if you fix your mind and energy to it.”
Former Brave Warriors coach Ricardo Mannetti said Hotto and Shalulile’s exploits are exactly the tonic to Namibian incessant infighting.
“We’ve been through a lot in our football over the past few years. They [success stories] are the light at the end of the tunnel.
“They have given a lot of young players who aspire to be professional footballers and have passion for football a lot of hope. I salute everyone who is flying our nation’s flag high outside the country.”
He too wants to see more players take their football to greater heights.
“Both showed if you go to a big club you can make the first eleven and play an integral part in their success,” said Mannetti.
“Some people still look at football as a hobby, some still think football is just a game. But the successes of Deon, Peter, and in the past the likes of Mohammed [Ouseb] and Collin Benjamin, tells a different story,” Mannetti said.
His successor Bobby Samaria is understandably delighted with his leading stars’ recognition and hopes it rubs off on their peers.
“This goes to show the God-given talent Namibia is blessed with and that with the right guidance, coaching support, many more Shalulile’s can be unearthed,” Samaria noted.
“The exploits of our exports is good for the overall growth and development of the game at home.
“Congratulations to DH7 [Deon Hotto] as well for his contribution to ending the Buccaneers trophy drought and being the MTN 8 best performer. In fact all our internationals represented our country at their respective clubs with aplomb,” Samaria said.
President Hage Geingob and Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani also joined the masses in celebrating the duo’s achievements on Twitter.
“For Peter @Shalulile13 to be recognised by coaches and peers as football and player’s player of the season is a demonstration of his consistency, hard work and excellence. I congratulate this brilliant footballer for making Namibia proud in the @OfficialPSL SA Premier League,” Geingob, the country’s football patron, Tweeted on Sunday.
“I also congratulate @DeonHotto for his award as the Last Man Standing and outstanding player during the #MTN8 Cup. Through their discipline and sporting achievements, these athletes are role models for our youth. Continue flying the Namibian flag high,” he added.
Venaani Tweeted: “When one Namibian shines we all shine. Am proud leader to see him excelling. Owetu hafifa owa longa oshilonga sha fimana ku fye unene (you made us happy, you accomplished a great feat for us).”