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Last updated: Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 16:51 GMT


Namibia unmasked
BBC Sport Online offers a guide to the young African nation making its World Cup debut across the border in South Africa.

They might be taking on the big guns in cricket's greatest limited-overs competition but little is known where the Namibian team hail from.

In fact, mention Namibia in a sporting context, and the only name which springs to most minds is Olympic sprinting legend Frankie Fredericks.

But the likes of Deon Kotze, Danie Keulder, Riaan Walters and Burton van Rooi are determined improve the country's sporting portfolio with a good performance during the World Cup.

In fact, if any team knows about playing conditions in South Africa, it is Namibia, which shares its southerly border with the 2003 hosts.

Not only do the team regulary play in their neighbouring country, but the histories of both nations have long been entwined.

NAMIBIA: THE BASICS
Size: 825,418kmē
Population: 1.5 million
Capital: Windhoek
Languages: English (official), Afrikaans, German, Oshivambo, Herero, Nama
Currency: Namibian dollar (pegged and equal to the South African rand)
Sports stars: Frankie Fredericks, Harry Simon, Danie Keulder
Fact: Namibia has the largest free-roaming cheetah population in the world - approx 2,500
Located on the continent's south-west coast, Namibia only achieved independence from South African rule in 1990.

Since then, the nation has enjoyed more than a decade of stability under President Sam Nujoma and inter-racial reconciliation has encouraged the country's white people to remain and still play a major role in farming and other economic sectors.

In that time, Namibia has made strong efforts to gain recognition in the sporting world, not helped least by Frankie Fredericks' achievements in the 100m and 200m.

With a host of medals, including silver in both events at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, as well as gold at the 1993 World Championship, it is no surprise that Fredericks has been named Namibia's "Sportsman of the Year" an amazing 11 times in his career.

But he is not the only world-class star to come from large sparcely-populated country.

Harry Simon put Namibia on the map in boxing after capturing the WBO middleweight title last August.

The African country is also making progress in establishing itself in other sports.

Although Namibia lost all their group matches, reaching the 1999 Rugby World Cup was a big step forward.

And at the Commonwealth Games, Fredericks' gold in the 200m was complimented by bronze medals for Namibia in shooting and the women's 800m.

No doubt, exposure at the Cricket World Cup can only do Namibia's sporting image more good.





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