The Namibia Chess Federation elected a new president in January, and Africa Chess Media caught up with the Youngest federation president in Africa and maybe even the world, Mr Israel Shilongo, as he shed some light on who he is, how he became president, his vision and how he hopes to develop chess in Namibia. Do kindly follow the journey of this interesting and inspiring young man.
Hi Mr. President, Can we meet you?
Yes, thank you. First and foremost, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be able to give some insight on my appointment and the tenure ahead briefly.
My name is Israel Shilongo, 26 years of age and the youngest head of the Namibia Chess Federation since its inception in 1994.
When did you come across chess and when did you start playing chess?
I came across chess back in high school at Concordia College in Windhoek, aged 15 at the time, and just recently gave up playing football in an attempt to avoid physical injuries. When the idea was pitched to me by Mr. Josef Nitzborn, I didn’t think twice and within 2 weeks, we had started up a 7 member chess Club. I became very sharp instantly and became the mentor to my peers.
After 3 years of high school chess, I gave up chess to focus on my Electrical Engineering Qualification, meaning I have to take chess sabbatical for a good 5 years. Until I reinvented myself back in the chess scene in 2015, by joining the national league with Rubinstein Chess Academy.
My administration and management skills started kicking in by 2016, as I took over the position to captain the academy, and in the same year, I became an assistant league administrator. The following year, I was promoted to the position of League administrator and at the same time, elected as the Technical Director of the Namibia Chess Federation, a position I held up until my appointment as President of Namibia Chess Federation.
Chess in schools has been deployed by many countries to develop youth participation, what is your take on this?
Chess in schools is the core of global chess industry, and can also be said to be the fundamental building block of the 64-squared board game, which ensures that the future is secured. With a good foundation implemented in schools, the void to have a nation of mentally equipped individuals and citizens will be filled properly without heavy investments thereafter.
Do you plan to adopt this?
As evident from the world champions, starting young is the benchmark for chess success, and if we can give opportunity to as many scholars as possible, the pool will be filled with enormous talents, and creating champions will not be a big issue, I would therefore endorse the Compulsory Chess in Schools initiative.
What are your immediate plans for the Namibia Chess Federation?
I’m a great admirer of our former president, Mr. Otto Nakapunda and his ideologies with regards to chess development. The main thing as laid out in our Vision 2020 Plan is to ensure that we achieve the short-term objectives on a timely basis, while working towards implementing our Vision 2024 Plan.
The need to ensure that all tournaments played in Namibia are FIDE rated and that all active chess players have FIDE ratings is one of the immediate plans, which we plan on executing from the onset, alongside the need to have Zonal Chess Associations from the 14 regions of Namibia, to help the mother body with our drive for chess development.
Do you think you have what it takes to lead Namibia Chess to Glory?
From a personal point of view, the attributes I possess allows me to run the organization both with a chess player’s mind and a businessman’s heart. As evident in my rise through the ranks of chess administration, there was no doubt from day one that I would make a successful head of the Namibia Chess Federation, my personality, as being more of a listener than a talker has helped me to acquire a vast amount of wisdom that would only guarantee success in the chess society.
I believe these 4 years in office will bring significant changes to the paradigms of Namibia Chess.
Namibia is not highly ranked on the FIDE rankings (No. 171 in the world, 2Nd last in Africa, with 11 titled players). What are your plans to change this narrative?
The main challenge was the lack of rated tournaments in the country, the few individuals that managed to get ratings had to dig deep in other countries and came back winning convincingly. The inability to host major tournaments has also hindered the progressiveness of our players and ability to obtain titles. With Namibia winning the hosting rights of the 2019 African Youth Chess Championships, we are pretty confident of getting a fair share of titled players which will in turn uplift our ranking in the world.
The lack of ratings for over 400 chess players also makes Namibia seem to have only 20+ chess players, which is not something that seats well with the Namibia Chess Federation, an issue that needs to be resolved as soon as possible and will indeed be resolved in our administration.
Do you have plans towards bringing the best chess players to Namibian tournaments?
One of the solutions identified to uplift the standard of Namibian tournaments is the need to host in Namibia, some of the very best in Africa and the rest of the world. I have already made contact with the possibility of bring Nigeria’s International Master Oladapo Adu and a few other IM’s from across the continent, to ensure that the 2018 Namibian Open in August is the best ever Open tournaments within the borders of our Motherland.
That will be the start of the journey of fun filled, ecstatic, and eccentric participation of our regional counterparts in our tournaments, and from there, all will just be a positive uprising in terms of the numbers and participation in competitions.
After your tenure, what will you like to be remembered for?
The only thing I would like to be remembered for is the young, energetic and generous president that will never allow chess in Namibia to be crawling whilst the abilities to make it fly are enormous. I want to be known as a role model in terms of my administration and effectiveness with which positive changes are created in the lives of all Namibians through chess.
Finance has been a major issue for a lot of African Chess Federations, how do you intend on overcoming this?
The corporate world are always eager to assist an organization that is proving to be worthy of funding. With the right structures in place, a clear guideline on the utilization of funds and good accountability, financing should not be an issue from both local and foreign investors. We intend on implementing our plans step by step, which would ensure that the structures are put in place quickly and the rest inevitably follow suite. Chess surely has good selling points and we hope to exploit that opportunity by taking chess to the corporate bodies amongst other prospective partners and investors.
Thank you for your time to make this happen.