Namibian seeking MLS tryout

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:08 PM ET

Canada is filled with stories of immigrants landing on our soil to make better lives for themselves. But there aren't many stories of people coming to this country with the expressed desire to be professsional footballers.

But Maleagi (Marley) Ngarizemo, a defender with the Namibian national soccer team, has come to Canada in search of a tryout.

After agents advised him that it wasn't enough to send resumes and videos to Toronto FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps or the Montreal Impact -- that he actually needed to come to Canada and knock on some doors, he made his way to Toronto in December. He's staying in the Jane-Finch area with a family member.

Next, comes the hard part -- finding a club that will give him a shot. He's advertised as a no-nonsense central defender, who just finished his contract with South African side, Black Leopards. At 30, he feels he has a few years left.

Ngarizemo was on the Namibian roster at the 2008 African Cup of Nations, but started all three group-stage games on the subs' bench. Namibia is not what would be considered an African footballing power. A nation of just 2 million, it is ranked No. 113 on FIFA's world chart. Qualifying for the 2008 African Cup of Nations is the high-water mark in the country's soccer history. And when it got there, it didn't win a game.

But, the Namibian squad played some of the biggest names on the continent.

"It was fantastic," he said. "It was a good achievement for the country, and we got to play against the likes of (Ghanian and Chelsea star Mickael) Essien and (Morocco and Bordeaux striker Marouane) Chamakh."

There was little other reward than the games themselves. Ngarizemo said national team players make as little as US$400 per match.

With MLS clubs having a solid history of making themselves open to looking at African trialists and project players -- look no further than TFC's signing of Gambians Emmanuel Gomez and Amadou Sanyang in 2009 or this year's training-camp invite issued to journeyman Egyptian defender Ibrahim Saied -- Ngarizemo is hopeful his C/V can catch someone's attention.

He's been in Toronto for not even two months, but he said the city already feels like "a second home."

"I know Canadian football, it is going to come up," he said. "I want to come here to be a part of this. I talked to a couple of agents, and they told me it might be easier to get a tryout if I came here... I am good at game-reading, good passer, and a good long passer from the back."

Ngarizemo spent the 2007-08 season with South African side Cape Town FC, then was invited by an agent to play in Cyprus, with the promise that, if he played there, he could get a lucrative contract in Turkey, home to some of Easten Europe's biggest club teams, like Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas. Instead, he found himself stuck in what he called a semi-pro league.

"He (the agent) told me to play there (Cyprus) for a year," said Ngarizemo. "But there was terrible conditions in Cyprus. It was not good, so I decided to go back."

Cape Town FC chairman Errol Dicks wrote in an e-mail that he would "reserve my comments" on Ngarizemo, but added, "His age and physical shape will determine whether he can compete at a competitive level or not."

The Namibian Football Association did not return messages left at its offices in the capital, Windhoek.

Ngarizemo finished last season with Black Leopards. After his contract expired, he returned to Namibia, but, before going back to sign with a club tea there, decided to give his Canadian gamble a go.

Because Namibia isn't a world soccer power, it will still be a challenge for Ngarizemo to find a Canadian club -- at least one that could pay him enough to make him a living. But Ngarizemo's used to being an underdog.


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