• October 17th, 2018
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Down Memory Lane with New Era Sport, as we roll back the 40 years to the football match that was to change the mindset of the apartheid masters: 1975 - 2015


Last Sunday, October 4, marked exactly 40 years since the historic somewhat chilly Saturday afternoon in 1975 when what was meant to be a leisure exhibition football match between a black invitational side and their white counterparts, at the Old Suidwes Rugby Stadium in Windhoek, turned out to be an event that would change white people’s misplaced perceptions of blacks. At the time the winds of change were still blowing at one of the first reconciliatory events held in the then South West Africa (SWA) that would unintentionally herald a new dawn for the clearly fragile tensions between larneys and darkies - leading to a pathway for the birth of a new era of apparent unity, although independence was still far away. That particular match was to change the misplaced perception of the white folks towards darkies as they realized that both races could live together in peace and harmony in a future independent Namibia. With the stadium packed beyond capacity, in fact bursting at the seams, the large contingent of football crazy darkies dwarfed the larneys who were afforded the privilege of watching the action in the comfort of the all-seats grandstand on the western side, while the darkies were packed like sardines in the open stands and having the discomfort of casting their eyes against the sun. The first ever multi-racial football bonanza on Namibian soil brought the country’s finest footballers together from both the black and white clubs, who entertained the close to 5 000-strong vociferous crowd, the first time the Suidwes Stadium hosted such a memorable event. As it turned out, whites trotted onto the field with a slight advantage over their opponents in the good company of white match officials, who were obviously under strict instructions from the powers that be to make damn sure the whites’ supposed superiority was maintained – by hook or by crook. Ironically, the Black Eleven were led by a 20-year-old student from St Joseph’s Secondary School (Dobra) – a strongly built chappy going by the name of Albert Hoonjo Tjihero, while the whites were under the shrewd stewardship of veteran striker Hasso Ahrens. Young Tjihero was a late inclusion in the squad by default as the Black Eleven were making use of the training and camping facilities at Dobra. As opposed to their white counterparts who enjoyed the luxury of training on well maintained sports fields, the darkies team used to train on gravel fields against the school’s senior (Dobra) football team. But the bow-legged light skinned Tjihero ran rings around his more experienced and much celebrated practice match opponents as he stung the palms of goalkeepers //Gaes Booysen and Bonnetti Niilenge. Head coach Willem Hans, who happened to be mentoring the young lad at the time, had then seen enough and opted to include the boy in the starting line-up, and he was deservedly given the captain’s armband. However, right up until before the whistle there was still a commotion over whether the match would still take place as the apartheid authorities were not exactly keen to sanction a football match of such magnitude, that would see darkies and larneys rub shoulders with each other on a level playing field. However, determined football gurus under the leadership of anti-apartheid activists Simon Sisingi Hiskia, Oscar Norich-Tjahuha and Jafet “Stone” Hoeseb managed to sweet-talk the powers that be at the then SWA second tier government under the stewardship of Barney Barnes, Andrew Matjila, Dirk Mudge, Ovaherero leader Clemence Mutuurunge Kapuuo, Peter Kalangula, Andrew Kloppers and Kosie Pretorius, and others, under apartheid hawk Louis Pienaar, to give the go-ahead. Nevertheless, by the time the recently departed Wolgang Egerer blew the whistle to signal the kick-off, all the traumas of the past were temporarily put aside as the two opposing football teams rolled up their sleeves to do battle for superiority, with racial pride very much at stake and this is how theystarted: Tjihero announced his arrival on the big stage justifying his inclusion in the starting line-up with a wonder goal from 25 metres after he disposed of Saxy Sasse to send the large black crowd into raptures with six minutes gone on the clock. However, the joy was to be short-lived as another schoolboy from Swakopmund Arno “Puffy” Rahn equalized with a long-range scorcher that caught the Black Eleven’s goalkeeper Samuel “Bonnetti” Niilenge off guard (1-1). Former Chief Santos hotshot striker Celle Auchumeb restored the blacks’ to a slender lead with a thunderous pile driver that left net-guard Peter Radecke catching flies to make it 2-1. Sensing danger, coach Willem Hans hauled off the ineffective Storm Khom-Khaiseb and unleashed the more energetic left-footed winger Paul “Gawarib” Urib and the latter immediately made his presence felt, carving open the solid defence of the whites with some telling passes. Auchumeb completed his brace with another copybook goal to give the fired-up blacks a two goal cushion (3-1). Dribbling wizard //Nerab Gariseb was introduced with Blue Waters winger Matheuws “Theu” Amadhila making way for the diminutive playmaker – much to the delight of the appreciative crowd. The whites reduced the deficit four minutes before the break through Sparta’s playmaker Ivo de Gouveia. What happened was that with the blacks having taken the initiative, very much in total control of proceedings and looking destined for a historic triumph – referee Wolgang Egerer had different ideas. The bearded match official who has since taken a bow from the game of life, out of the blue awarded a highly dubious indirect free kick inside the penalty box to the whites. De Gouveia acted swiftly and took advantage of the fiasco while the blacks were angrily arguing with the match official. He quickly took the ball and dispatched it neatly into the back of the net to reduce the deficit to a solitary goal (3-2). “We were still vehemently confronting the match official over his dubious decision to award such a soft free kick but the whites just took the ball and scored through Ivo, very much to our disappointment and amazement,” reveals one of the star players from that historic clash, Ranga Lucas. The dodgy decision seemed to galvanize the infuriated blacks. The whites managed to crawl their way back into contention albeit with mostly biased decisions going their way. It was a match of two distinct tales, the blacks maximizing their natural ball skills and endurance, while the whites used their technical and tactical superiority to their advantage. As the match wore on and deep into the final minutes of the encounter, Egerer – at the time sweating like a Zulu warrior and looking for an escape route – all of a sudden pointed to the penalty spot to award his kith and kin a very generous penalty kick. To compound matters – the highly disputed spot kick was taken three times until the pigskin spherical object finally landed in the back of the net for an obvious undeserved equalizer. This was the sequence: Firstly, the delivery was off target but Egerer would have none of that and ordered a re-take, claiming Niilenge had moved before the penalty kick was taken, but the agile shot stopper was unfazed and was equal to the task at the second attempt to thwart the goal-bound shot. Still, Egerer was not convinced and ordered another retake with the very same excuse. This time, Gernot Ahrens made no mistake as he neatly dispatched the spot kick into the back of the net and as they say, the rest is history. The match ended 3-all. “For us, it was not about football as such, it was more about racial equality while our opponents were out to prove racial superiority. So, the onus was placed on us to represent our genuine intentions in the most dignified fashion and bring much needed honour and dignity to the oppressed black community,” relates two-goal hero Auchumeb. “I did not eat properly on the three days leading up to the match because I was fully focused. Coach Willem Hans took us through extensive training sessions, letting us scale the rough mountainous terrain at Dobra. The training made us very fit and we were all upbeat because national pride was at stake. “We had to pull out all stops and show our perpetrators that we possessed the required ability to compete with them on equal footing if afforded the opportunity.” Auchumeb further revealed that he subsequently became an instant hero in his hometown Tsumeb, and was treated like a king in the Nomtsoub residential area to the extent that he would receive free soft drinks at any given time at the late Oscar Norich Tjahuha’s grocery shop. Even if the highly disputed combined penalty and indirect free kick had been placed under a microscope 39 years down the line, all the ill feelings had completely disappeared into thin air by the time the Gondwana Collection invited both sets of footballers for a reunion last year. A significant chunk of the players had already gone the way of all flesh and the rest had gotten a bit long in the tooth, but the blokes still around were eager to relive the historic moments of that particular sporting exhibition. The outcome was that sport and in particular football proved to be the primary avenue for national bonding and reconciliation, with the gathering mirroring Gondwana’s intrinsic philosophy that diversity makes you stronger. The reunion was a chance to celebrate and showcase the important component of a new Namibia. Team members, now in their late 50s and early 60s, were tracked down through the hard work of Manny Goldbeck and Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa. They travelled from all corners of the country and from as far afield as Cape Town and Johannesburg to relive some good old memories as they converged at the old fashioned cultural shebeen “Okambashu Godwana” bar on March 29 last year. They came in all packages, including all four captains – led by Albert Tjhero and opposite number Hasso Ahrens (1975), Steve “Kalamazoo” Stephanus and his counterpart Don Corbett, skippers of the return match in 1976. To cap an unforgettable evening, those in attendance were treated to excellent German cuisine accompanied by good wine, while the popular township jazz band Dakotas from the Old Location provided live tunes from the olden days. After a long night of fun the most hated man among the black folks back in the day, Wofgang Egerer, finally manned up to his deliberate biased refereeing, which saw tears of joy flowing freely down the ageing cheeks of the old toppies. Egerer took a deep breath, drawing from the deep reserves of courage, occasionally tapped into by heroes and champions, and took us back on a journey to 1975. The first signs of change were rippling through the country as apartheid began to lose its edge. In the Suidwes Stadium, however, some of old laws were still in place that obliged segregated seating with blacks on the one side and whites on the other with very little space in between. Egerer was afraid of the ultimate outcome of the result in that potentially volatile situation, which, he mistakenly thought would cause riots either way. He felt the grave responsibility of the football clash like a heavy weight on his tiny shoulders. After much deliberations, he resolved to keep ‘peace’, thinking that it would be best if the result would be a draw, giving both sides, and both groups, a middle ground that he longed to see outside the stadium. The time had now come, nearly four decades later and on this happy occasion, to reveal his secret. It was met with thundering applause from the guests who cheered his courage while appreciating the humble confession. Next stop was the Ramblers sports field in Pionierspark on Saturday morning to settle an old score via an exhibition football match by the crocks. With inflated bellies and some with swollen knees, which resulted from all the knocks suffered while at the pinnacle of their football careers, it was obvious that the oldies had certainly lost none of their passion for football and those in attendance were surely taken down memory lane. The lively and friendly atmosphere was a positive and inspiring sign of the times. All team members paused for the prize-giving ceremony, a symbolic gesture. This time captain Albert Tjihero happily shared the trophy with opposing captain Hasso Ahrens. Manny Goldbeck says: “When I recently learned the sad news that Egerer has been reunited with his ancestors barely a year after his courageous confession, I vividly remembered myself as a gangly teenager enthusiastically watching the match between the two teams way back in 1975, and how thrilled I was to witness my football heroes back on the field in 2014. “The moment that stuck to my mind and memory, however, shining above all the rest, was this brave and courageous act of honesty demonstrated by the man who had once found himself in the difficult position of being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Thank you for your integrity and your courage, Wolfgang. May your soul rest in eternal peace.”
2015-10-09 10:46:57 3 years ago
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