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Collin Benjamin

Bayern Munich's striker Thomas Mueller (L) and Hamburg's Namibian defender Collin Benjamin during the German first division Bundesliga football match Hamburg SV vs FC Bayern Munich in the northern German city of Hamburg on 22 October 2010.(Photo Fabian Bimmer)
Colllin Benjamin (41), the most successful professional soccer player who spent his prime time almost a decade abroad. Benjamin was born on 03 August 1978 and bred in Katutura township he tested the hard realities of growing up surrounded by poverty that made an indelible mark on him from a young age. He had a special talent for soccer as early as 13−year−old, it was this impeccable ambition that inspired him to go forward. He began his soccer career with Civics Football Club in 1996 at Windhoek. Collin Benjamin returned home from Germany in 2016 to start a new chapter in his life with the main aim of helping talented Namibian soccer players to make the grade in Europe's football.


“I remember when the Brave Warriors lost 4−0 to Zambia in 1992, I was reading about the match in Die Republikein and they referred to some of the Zambian players as ‘beroepspelers.’ I asked my mom what it meant and she explained that they were professional players, playing soccer for a living. I couldn’t believe they were getting paid to play soccer, so then and there I decided that’s what I want to do. So my vision and the path I had to follow started there.”

Collin started working on reaching his goal, and by the age of 16 when he represented Namibia for the first time at u17 level. Three years later, in 1998, he made his senior debut for the Brave Warriors but his goal of becoming a professional player remained as strong as ever, and the following year he decided to go to Germany to follow his dream. Collin was suddenly snapped up by Bundesliga giants Hamburg FC and went on to represent Hamburg in the highly competitive European Champions League, rubbing shoulders with some of the finest footballers on the world stage, including the legendary Thierry Henry. He also captained the Brave Warriors on several occasions, both in the regional Cosafa Cup and Fifa World Cup qualifiers.



Collin Benjamin (left) sitting with a head coach Ricardo Mannetti (centre) and assistant Fillemon Kanalelo on the Brave Warriors technical team (Photo: Sheefeni Nikodemus)
Collin said “I was put in touch with an agent in Germany, Joe Francken, so after some correspondence I bought a ticket and flew to Germany to meet him. I was only 21 and weighing 68kg and he just laughed when he saw me, but he took me to a youth hostel and I attended some trials with a third division team. The other guys were however all stronger and faster than me and within a week my dream was dead,” he said. Collin had told everyone back home that he was going to become a professional player so he knew he couldn’t go back, and decided to persevere. He asked Francken to find him a team, any team, and eventually he joined a fifth division team.

“They got me a small room with a sleeper couch and the first game we won they bought me a TV. After our second victory they bought me a VHS machine, and that is how I started furnishing my room. They paid me 400 Mark per month, which came from the gate takings so I was literally paid in coins,” he said.

Collin wasn't concerned about the money at the time because he was determined to succeed and worked really hard to achieve his dream. “In those years, when other guys were stronger and faster, I trained on my own, I ran in the forest and trained in the gym. I was determined to break the poverty cycle that I grew up in, that was my main motivation. My grandmother was a cleaner at the Katutura hospital and my mother was a casual worker at (Cadbury Springer), a chocolate factory. So I was just thinking that I had to break the poverty cycle so that my kids would not have to go through the same thing one day,” he said.

Collin’s hard work started to pay off and at the end of the season he moved with his coach to a fourth division team, Empshorn. His big breakthrough came when they played Hamburg’s second team and after a great performance, in which he scored a goal and made another in a 2−all draw, he was approached by Hamburg’s assistant coach.

“After the match their assistant coach gave me his card and asked me to call him. I was so excited but I managed to keep a straight face and after a day I called him. He took me around Hamburg’s stadium with state of the art facilities and asked if I wanted to join them, so I signed up with Hamburg. I was earning 3 000 Mark per month and my head was in the stars,” he said. Collin soon started training with the first team players and after impressing the coach he was signed up to the first team, receiving a vastly improved salary.

Collin Benjamin attends with his wife Winnie for the Oktoberfest 2011 at Hacker Festzelt on 20 September 2011 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein)
“I was a shy guy and normally I just kept to myself because I didn’t want to be noticed, but on the field I was a fighter. My weight increased to 75kg, I became strong and after a while my coach said he was happy with the way I had adjusted. He said they wanted to keep me there and offered me 15 000 per month − I couldn’t believe it, I tried to remain cool but inside I was jumping for joy and when I got home I called my mom, saying ‘I’m rich, I’m rich, I’ve made it.’”

Collin however realised that it was just the beginning and he had to work extra hard to stay at the top.“That was just the beginning. It’s tough to reach the top, but to stay there and go further, that's another challenge. Just two years back I was still washing dishes at my first club, but now if I wanted to live like a lion, I had to work harder and be stronger,” he said.

Collin said the analogy of the lion and the springbok was a big motivational factor in his life. “Every morning when I wake up I ask myself if I want to live like a lion or a springbok. Both wake up and both have to eat − the lion wants to eat the springbok, so the springbok has to run and can only stop when the lion is tired. Am I going to have to run like the springbok or am I going to wait for the right moment to attack. I always asked myself why am I doing this, and that’s where my mental strength comes from,” he said.

Collin Benjamin, chairman Bernd Hoffmann and Katja Kraus, Deputy Vice-Chairman of Hamburg are seen on the tribune before the UEFA Europa League quarter final match between Standard Liege and Hamburger SV at Maurice Dufrasne stadium on 08 April 2010 in Liege, Belgium. (Photo by Christof Koepsel)

SPORT ACADEMY

Benjamin had an illustrious football career playing for German Bundesliga, Hamburg SV for 10 years before becoming an assistant coach to 1860 Munich. However he gave up a promising coaching career to return home and embark on a new dream of building a Football Academy to help groom Namibia’s new generation of young stars.'' We just have to get a football centre here in Namibia to help the youth to succeed in Europe. It’s going to be difficult and I have to identify young boys to work with, but I’m determined to start the centre,” he added.

Collin said the football centre would need two artificial Pitches, a Gym and Physiotherapist that will work full time. The decision to establish the academy it's a big need in the country he had the backing support from some friends in Germany. “There are quite a few people − managers, agents or ex−players who are willing to come into this project. But for me it’s a calling and more a case of what I can I do for my country in stead of what my country can do for me,” he said. “Now I’m looking for an appropriate place to build the centre and I am busy negotiating with people. I’m really sincere about this, I have to do this and I wont stop until it’s done. The first artificial pitch has to be done within , that’s the dream,” he added.

Collin who also been assistant coach for Brave Warriors, recently he was at the centre of focus to lead the national team before the appointment of Bobby Samaria as interim coach, but Collin he declined the offer saying he is too busy with other important venture and he can't be a coach for Brave Warrior, “I was an assistant coach at 1860 Munich and I had a good salary, but I decided to come home because I want to help someone else to follow their dream,” he said.

Collin Benjamin quit TSV 1860 München following his sudden resignation as the club’s assistant coach. The German media have indicated no signs of internal squabbles at the club when he resigned. “I want to make it clear to all the fans that I’m not leaving because of a conflict or anything of that sort, but I just feel the time is right for me to move on and try new things.  Dieblaue24.com stated that the 37-year-old Namibian ex-international officially hung up his boots.  “We regret that Collins desired to leave the club but we however have to respect his wishes. Collin has a great personality and his professionalism was an important part of the coaching staff. We wish him all the best for the future and he will always be welcome at the club,” said TSV 1860 München Sporting Director Oliver Kreuzer.

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