An exclusive interview with Elina Lugambo Petrus: Regional Sport Officer

Name: Elina Lugambo Petrus
House Name: Panduleni
Place of Birth: Keetmanshoop, //Kharas Region
Date of Birth: 18 March 1981
Work: Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service
Division: Directorate Sport Development
Title: Regional Sport Officer
Town: Walvis Bay, Erongo Region

When the Namibian football story is one day written, you will be mentioned as those trail braziers that contributed to the first sponsorship of the women football league, while this has not been acknowledged, who is Elina Petrus and where did you come from?
(Smiling) my friends call me Pandu, am currently employed as a Regional Sport Officer in the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Services. I have been working with the ministry since September 2012 after having completed my studies to be a teacher at the then Windhoek College of Education, now University of Namibia, Khomasdal Campus.
I was born and grew up in the southern town of Keetmanshoop in the //Kharas Region attending to Primary School Mina Sach and my Secondary School at J.A.NEL Secondary School. As a young girl, I played any sport code with boys in the street and at school. At primary school under the leadership of late Mr. Joseph Mckay (May his soul rest in peace) I was introduced to athletics, softball, netball and volleyball and in the street I played soccer with the boys and different kinds of indigenous games such as 3 blikkies, marbles (which I was good at) blikkies vol maak.
At secondary school I only played volleyball for the school team and athletics. In 1997, when I was in Grade 10, Mr. Freyer started a Keetmanshoop women soccer team to play against the National Women’s team which was touring the country in search of new players and I alongside Elskamine Cooper (Moralis), Eveline Dreyer (Eva), Nelago Stefanus, Alida Gases (Bolla) were selected for the National team that year to go play in Swaziland.
The senior soccer players of our street consist of good quality players such as Try-Again (late Angelo Frederiks, the Coleman brothers), Real fighters (Jackey Isaacks, Witches, Mr. Mackey, late Mr. Matroos, the Gomaseb brothers (Helmut, Tikitiep & Alfred), Young Beauties. One could not stay away from the //Kharas Region Second Devision League at all.
I then moved to Windhoek and learn a lot from the following people in sports Mathew Haikali, Lucky Pieters, Julien Garieses, Tovey //Hoebeb, Tim Isaacks, Alfeus Gaweseb and Boy Boy Ndjadhila and it just keep on growing.
My passion for the game of football started back in 1997, when I was still in high school, and it was during this time that I got an opportunity to be selected in the school team at the age of 17. In the same year I was selected for the women’s National team, since then I have never looked back. In fact, I have served the game of women football as a League Administrator and Player at the same time from 2005-2008, I also served as the chairperson of Windhoek College of Education Ladies Soccer from 2007-2009. I then moved to Hardap, where I served as the Chairperson of the Hardap Region Youth League, Hardap NSSU (Namibia School Sport Union) Soccer Co-convener and the Head Coach of Hardap Region NSSU U/17 Girls.
Because of my passion for women football, when I moved to Karasburg, I was responsible for the Gals & Goals Project from 2013 – 214, while also serving as the Legaue administrator for the Karasburg Male 3rd Division League.
Being involved in the game of football has presented me with great opportunities to grow, and to contribute to sports. In fact I have gone on to obtain the FIFA/CIES/Nelson Mandela FIFA Sport Management Certificate in Port Elizabeth in South Africa as well as a Sport management diploma from the University of Leipzig in Germany.
I also hold a Higher certificate in Management from the then SBS (Southern Business School). Working with young people requires that you understand certain dynamics and I have equipped myself by attending the safe guarding for sport development and FIFA Football for School course just to mention a few.

Most people started playing sports at a very early age, and there is always a motivating factor or a role model who inspired them. What was your inspiration to get involved in sports?
My mother always told me that it is important for children to take part in sports, as she believed that children should be active in sport, as active participation make a happy childhood.
It is because of her encouragement and motivation that I made sure that I took part in various sport code, and made sure I enjoyed participating or competing until I completed my school secondary school.
But then when I started teaching 2010 in Mariental, I had to make a choice between being a national player and a teacher, as I was always going away for national duty. My principal at that time asked me to decide between being a teacher or continuing to play for the national team.
It was heartbreaking for me as playing gives me great joy, but then the job I had as teacher meant that I could not be away from the learners for a very long time due to national team duty, and that’s when I stopped playing and started coaching at school.
Because of my passion for the game, the need to want to see more young people playing football, I initiated a youth league in Mariental which I coordinated and was at the same time coaching the school team. It was during this time that I attended YDF-Football-Instructor -Workshop in Pretoria in 2010 and 2011, where I learned a lot about incorporating life skills into sports. It was then that I made a change from teaching and became a sport officer. I personally feel good when I only do sport, I guess sport is just in blood.

What sparked your interest in this sport?
Sports unite us all and its is a happy place to be, it’s a place to network, make friends and learn a lot every day.

How did it all start?
Like most rural youngsters, I started playing football in the dusty street of Tseiblaagte with the boys, where we had location league tournaments, which were played by different location teams. This games we pooled for the winner takes all. At that time each location team had at least a lady in the team. Myself, Elskamine Cooper, Eveline Dreyer, Nelago Stephus and others played in these teams, it helped us to up our game and gave us the jumpstart to be selected for the national team.
Mr. Freyer then started a Keetmanshoop women soccer team where we all played and we were unbeatably. We had a southern league where Hardap and //Kharas region only had 1 league.
I played for the //Kharas Regional Team and we beat Khomas Region at the finals 5-2 on penalties in Swakopmund at the Ministry of Youth and National Services regional games. In 2000, during the regional games we lost against //Khomas at the finals in Otjiwarango.
I then moved to Windhoek and continue playing football after my grade 12 year, whiles hoping to get into tertiary education. Whiles there, I volunteer at Khomas Second division league for men, joined volunteer team of Mathew Haikali, Mutiwali and Mr. Clive Wilemse helping the youth at Khomasdal.

Is there one moment that you are proud of in your sporting career? What made it so special?
There are so many, but I would say. When I was selected for the National Team the same year, I learnt to play football and also being one of the 1st women from the //Kharas Region and the 1st in my family to be part of the Brave Gladiators at the age of 17.

Over the years you must have had moments that you remember that have made you, can you share one of them?
It is always good to be able to see what others have done to elevate sports, and going for studies at the University of Leipzig in Germany, and being in a position where we were practically doing things, including opportunities to mingle and network with experienced administrators and events organizer, was very special for me.
In fact I still remember when we were made part and parcel of the Local Organizing Committee of the Final 4-Tournament of the Women’s German Handball Cup. There were 10 000 spectators, and I was part of the logistics, coordination and security of the event before, during and after the event. This was a great experience for me

What do you regard as a significant low point you have faced and how have you managed to overcome it?
When there is no funding to assist in sport development but yet you just let it happen as long as there is interest from the community, and hope for next time, we will be able to implement and plough back to them.
For me, it is always that with little resources or at times none, we try to enjoy sport on the ground

Sports in this country has not been given the attention it deserves, how has these setbacks affected you and how do you bounce back?
Setbacks helps us to understand where we went wrong and how to work towards the positive outcome. When its beyond my control, I keep on pushing until one day its no longer a challenge but have made room for improvement.
Sports not being a priority in our country, has discouraged me from studying further in the sport industry. No bursary available and one should have to pay out of your pocket, hopefully with the NQA recognizing the qualifications of sports studies, things might change.

Do you considered that the time you have been involved in sports have changed you?
I believe I have evolved as a person, if you commit to a certain path in life, you need to acknowledge growth. If you know what you want in life. You have direction. One of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is — Begin with the end in mind. In all things, there are two creations: The mental creation and the physical creation.

Over the years you must have learnt some hard lessons and gained insight from your experiences. How has it been?
Over the years I have learnt that patience is a Virtue. In sports there is everything, sheer satisfaction, overwhelming frustrations; some you wins and some you lose. You need to be able to exercise patience at all times, even when pressure is mounting. You must remind yourself that you are setting an example for your athletes, and trying to foster constructive communication between them and yourself, which means you need to be approachable, patient and always level-headed.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to excel in your field?
Being a sport officer is that we should try to always be sensitivity and openness to changes and learning as in sports, things constantly change.

Who were some of your mentors? How did they influence your approach to sports?
I would say, Mr. Mathew Haikali, when he was the chairperson of the Khomas Second Division Football League. He introduced me to the board and ask me to start Khomas Women Football and to coordinate with Tovey //Hoebeb, who was at that time the Khomas Second Division coordinator. Mr Haikali roped me and guided me on how to run the women league and helped me find the 1st NEDBANK sponsor for the Women’s Soccer League. He provided guidance in establishing a women’s committee to run as a standing committee in Khomas League from the CCN building.
He always shared and updated me with upcoming courses and motivate me to attend the course and which field of studies to follow which I always do, for example the CIES/FIFA Sport Administration course in SA. Up to date I always look up to him and he has an open-door policy.

What keeps you motivated?
I always tell myself and others, it’s not about you and I, but it’s the difference you make in the girl and boy child in sports. We should aim to always make a positive impact in the sport industry.

Are there any elements of the sport that you find particularly challenging?
There is a tendance for people to hold information from others, there is a lack of communications from federations and sport communities. Sports people are not willing to take charge within the sport industry (doing things their own way all the time and expect positive outcome which is not happening), lack of sporting infrastructure and NO MONEY.

What aspects of your profession do you enjoy the most?
Sports is quite enjoyable as each day is different, some day you may do administration and planning, some day you will be doing or facilitating coaching /administration education course in conjunction with the federations. Sports offers opportunity to meeting new people with different characters, different ideas, experience and knowledge, and though this you always learning and get great satisfaction when new innovation take place.

Are there any specific challenges or aspects that you find particularly demanding or less enjoyable?
Yes, especially when community sport committee come to my office for help and I can’t assist them with their needs like transport, financial assistant and equipment. This forces me to be creative in dealing with their demands in an appropriate manner. Most of the time I can only avail human resources and that’s me.

How do you stay passionate and engaged in your work, even during tough times?
Am currently engaged in coordinating with the sport codes at the regional level and helping them to improve, develop and prioritize their structures needs. Am also involved in contributing to them achieving their goals by advising them because at the regional level, they are a powerful vehicle for transforming sports and individuals in the country. When I see improvement and positive change by the community, this keeps me going and encourage me to work more with them.

What can you share with those who wants to get into sports?
I would like all sport Administrators, coaches in the different federations, umbrella bodies and community members to stop remaining docile and stagnant. They must pull up their socks and be part of sport transformation. It’s time to rise to the occasion and restore our sport. We can’t remain amateurs, sport administrators should stop these ego conflicts, unethical conduct and maladministration.
Let’s help our athletes get ready for sports and succeed in life, as it helps them builds confidence and self-esteem in a fun and safe sports environment.

Looking back, what would you say has been the most valuable experience or lesson that you’ve gained from your journey?
For me as long as the Ministry of sport is still under budget, it will not be able to execute its mandate for the sporting nation.

Is there anything you would do differently if given the chance to change?
Yes, for our country sport people to be implementors and stop with their egos.

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