A star is born at the COSAFA Castle Cup – Collin Benjamin

Collin Benjamin was a stalwart for Namibia in the early years of the COSAFA Castle Cup, helping them into the final and later on going to have a successful career in Germany as one of Namibia’s greatest ever footballing exports.

The defender/midfielder was a highly consistent performer for the Brave Warriors in an international career that spanned 14 years between 1998 and 2012.

And he took his fledgling steps into international football at the COSAFA Castle Cup in 1998, making his debut in the competition in a 5-2 defeat for Namibia against Zimbabwe in Harare.

That would prove a disappointment, but the following year he helped guide his country to the final of the COSAFA Castle Cup in what was a magnificent run in the tournament.

It did not start all that well when he played in a 1-0 loss against Lesotho that put Namibia on the back foot, but they still managed to book a place in the quarterfinals.

There they would come up against against Malawi in Blantyre and Benjamin came off the bench at halftime to replace Robert Nauseb and would score the winning spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out that followed a 0-0 draw.

He held his nerve to plant the ball into the back of the net and send Namibia into the semifinals and a meeting with Bafana Bafana.

Benjamin started alongside Nauseb this time against a strong South African line-up that included Brian Baloyi, Thabo Mngomeni, Steve Lekoelea and Shaun Bartlett.

He was immense in the face of some stout South African pressure and again Namibia took the game to penalties, triumphing 4-1 for another famous win in the COSAFA Castle Cup against their neighbours after a 3-2 victory the year before.

Waiting in the two-legged final was Angola, with Benjamin playing in both legs.

The first was a narrow 1-0 defeat in Luanda, before Namibia hit back in the second game to complete the 90 minutes winning by the same scoreline.

That took the game to extra-time, but Angola grabbed a winner through Zico and lifted the trophy that year.

It was a case of so near and yet so far for Namibia and Benjamin, as they would have to wait another 16 years before they finally did claim the COSAFA Castle Cup in South Africa in 2015.

Benjamin returned for the 2000 COSAFA Castle Cup, but Namibia could not rediscover their winning touch and exited after a 3-2 defeat to Zimbabwe in which Benjamin was on the scoresheet.

By this time Benjamin had moved to Germany and was playing for lower league side FC Elmshorn 1920.

He was spotted shortly afterwards by Bundesliga club Hamburg, where he would spend the next 10 years, making almost 150 appearances and scoring 13 goals, as well as playing in the UEFA Champions League.

He won the German League Cup with Hamburg in 2003 and also skippered Namibia later in his career, playing for the side at the 2008 African Nations Cup finals in Ghana.

He moved to 1860 Munich in the latter stage of his career, and would later act as assistant coach for the side before leaving that post in the last season.

He remains a stalwart of Namibian football and a player who found his dreams come true in the COSAFA Castle Cup, proving once again it is truly a tournament of discovery!