This underdog bites, warns Namibia boss Mannetti

Ricardo Mannetti of Namibia Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti has warned his team's African Nations Championship opponents that his side are 'underdogs with teeth' ahead of their opener against Ivory Coast on Sunday.

The Southern Africans are primed to make their debut in the competition for African players based in the continent's local leagues after overcoming a difficult economic climate and the subsequent suspension of the Namibian Premier League to qualify.

Having been pitched against heavyweight duo Uganda and Zambia, as well as the Ivory Coast, in Group B, little is expected of Mannetti's side, but the ex-Namibia international has vowed that his team will earn the respect that they're due.

"It is our first time here and we need to respect the teams in our group," he told journalists at a press conference on Saturday. "In the same breath, they should also respect us.

"We welcome the underdogs tag, however, everybody must know that the underdog is still a dog with teeth, and can still bite. We are the new boys, but not a dog without teeth."

Namibia qualified for the 16-team tournament after besting Zimbabwe and then the Comoros in the Southern Zone -- a notable achievement considering the testing domestic context, with the NPL inactive for the 2016-17 season.

No domestic top-flight football was played from April 2016 until the start of the 2017-18 season in October 2017 after primary sponsors pulled out of deals, leaving many of Mannetti's team short of fitness and match sharpness during the CHAN qualifiers.

The 42-year-old coach is now determined for his team to complete their remarkable turnaround from adversity.

"The story of Namibia should be shared for all," he continued. "For two years, there was no national league, and this made it difficult to raise a team since the competition is for home-based players.

"But the players did well against all odds to make history for their country," he added. "The CHAN will be a wonderful platform to showcase Namibian football."

With a senior national side largely plucked from the local league, Mannetti will also be hoping that a strong performance in Morocco will stand the Warriors in good stead ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations 2019 qualifying campaign.

They will fancy their chances of reaching a third AFCON after being pitted alongside Zambia, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique.

"The gods of football smile on those who the right things," Mannetti concluded, "and we made a decision to prepare in a fashionable manner."