Rugby Soccer

Women slaying in sports: Exclusive interview with multi-sportswoman, Yvonne Kooper.

By: Nancy Halweendo

Well known in the streets of Mariental, where she caused havoc with her mad skill and talent on the football pitch, the twenty-three-year-old is arguably one of the finest sportswomen in the sport of football and Rugby.

In an exclusive interview with SRSM, the reserved Kooper unpacks her love for sports, a range of issues affecting women in the sports industry, and some of her highlights for the year.

When did you realize your love for sports?

It started off as just a game and I later got attached. I was born on a small farm called Dawed close to Maltahohe, but I later moved from there and grew up in Mariental where the majority of the kids you would find in the streets with a ball, were boys. By the age of fourteen, I was the only girl playing football with guys and I knew I wanted to do this for much longer.

What teams have you played for and were you involved in any other extra-curricular activities?

I was a fine athlete growing up. Started off at school and later competed regionally and at the national level.

Football: I have represented my region [Hardap] during regional games, and only ever played for Tura Magic Football Club Ladies.
Rugby: I played for Danie Joubert Combined School, Rehoboth Rugby Club, and now for Trustco United Rugby Club.

When you tell people you play Rugby or Football, what is their most common reaction and why do you think this is?
[Laughs] They are normally shocked because of my height and body size, especially when I mention Rugby. I think we haven’t normalized women of different sizes playing a sport like rugby which is usually played by bigger people.

You’ve played football for 9 years. What made you first get into Rugby and what has made you stick to it?
At seventeen, I tried Rugby out at the Danie Joubert Combined School in Mariental, and I enjoyed it so I decided to take it on as a sport and also because I love taking on new challenges. I joined Trustco United Rugby Club in 2022 and it’s great. I’ve met new players with different personalities and body sizes and I have become more confident in the sports I play despite my size.

What do you love most about being a sportswoman?

Being an inspiration to a young girl somewhere out there. Football and Rugby were mainly for men, but we [women] now play both perfectly which only proves that women can participate and perform well in any given sport.

What do you believe is the greatest challenge most sportswomen face today?
Discrimination is our greatest challenge. We are discriminated for almost everything, even things we have no control over like our body sizes. And don’t lose a match, coz now you will get hurtful comments directed at your choice of sport because there’s still a belief that women should only play “lady-like” sports.

Which strengths do you believe you have that make you a great sportswoman?

I have speed and I am committed. I have a small body, but a big heart which proves the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.” These make me a great sportswoman.

How do you manage your sports responsibilities and recreational life?

I am focused on my goals. I manage my responsibilities and still find time to relax.

Talk to us about some of your major highlights and achievements in sports this year.

Football: Playing Cosafa Women’s Champions Cup, where i scored a brace against Eswatini, and the friendly match we [ Namibia senior women national team] played against Botswana’s Senior Women Team on their Independence Day, where I scored the only goal.

Rugby: Definitely the Nationals 7’s tournament in Lesotho early this year in January. I was awarded the most valuable player of the tournament. I also got the most try-scorer award and the 2022 sportswoman of the year for my club, Trustco United.

Playing against the Springbok Women’s Team and the Zimbabwe Women’s Team in June this year in Cape Town, was also amazing.

What’s the greatest lesson you learned from your experiences both in Football and Rugby?

Teamwork is a major component in sports. I will not be able to perform as well as I do, or even score if my teammates and I do not work together.

If you could improve or change one thing for women in sports, what would it be?

Equal treatment. Why can’t we be treated equally when we play the same sport??

Who do you look up to as a role model and why?
[Smiles] I look up to Kylian Mbappe. He is a remarkable player with exceptional speed, renowned for his dribbling and finishing skills, and we play the same position [right wing].
Any last words to young girls thinking of getting into sports?
If you believe you can do it, why stop yourself? You believe in it, so it is possible!!