Mauritius legend Jean-Marc Ithier is an ambassador for the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup that will take place in Namibia from June 11-25 and has already had a taste of the hospitality that will be on offer for fans at the tournament.
Ithier was in Walvis Bay for the start of the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup Trophy Tour and was not only impressed by the vibe at the event, but also by the enthusiasm Namibians are already showing for the competition.
“There was a great vibe there and the kids really enjoyed it,” Ithier said. “It is such a good initiative to take the COSAFA Castle Cup around the country and to see how the people have embraced the competition was really good.
“I was so impressed with the attitude and the friendliness of the Namibian people I meet, nothing was too much trouble for them and they tried to help me with everything along the way.
“This bodes well for the visitors who may be coming to the country for the competition, and for the tournament as a whole.”
Although Ithier had twice played in Namibia with Mauritius during his illustrious career, he says this visit was more eye-opening for him.
“When I was there as a player I was maybe more focussed on the games themselves and not looking at the country. Now I am older, and hopefully wiser, you see things through different eyes and what I saw was wonderful.”
Mauritius have been drawn alongside Malawi, Angola and Lesotho in their first round Group B at the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup and Ithier, who remains closely linked to football on the island, says there are signs the team is improving.
“Since coach Joe Tshupula has taken over I have seen a bit of improvement in the team, but it is early days and there is a long way to go,” Ithier says. “For Mauritian football it is not just about a new coach coming in with a magic wand, it is about the development side and the youth, there must be a long-term plan.
“I hope they do better than last year [when the exited the COSAFA Castle Cup in the first round] and the results recently have not been too bad, so there is the makings of a good team. And I think they will improve further.”
Mauritius beat a useful Rwandan side 1-0 in an African Nations Cup qualifier at home in March.