• August 13th, 2020

A bird of passage: Willem Tuyoleni Ashipembe aka ‘Ekaku’



 The beautiful game of football in apartheid Namibia was birthed in the coastal town of Walvis Bay on the banks of the freezing Atlantic Ocean. As it stands, the most recognisable football entity from that neck of the woods is without a shadow of doubt Blue Waters Football Club, also known as “Omeya” or better still the “Beautiful Birds” amongst its ardent followers. It has always the dream of almost every aspiring footballer growing up in Kuisebmond to pull the famous foam and navy strip of Omeya over their heads... well, young Willem Ashipembe was no exception to this unwritten rule.

He was to realise his long-held ambition following in the footsteps of his departed old man Mathias and maternal grandfather Ben Amadhila, while his uncle Theu Amadhila also turned out for “Omeya” completing the family’s legacy. We caught up with the now-retired tough-tackling lanky defender who also enjoyed successful stints with Northern giants Teenagers and Golden Bigs, respectively, as the Augustineum SS protégé relives the football journey that took him across the Orange River to the Mother City (Cape Town) representing his motherland at junior level.

 

Born in Namibia’s largest harbour town Walvis Bay, Willem was like any other young boys in the “hood”, football crazy and would play football at the slightest provocation, be it on the way to school, shops or around street corners.
“I started playing football in the dusty streets of Kuisebmond or sometimes on makeshift football pitches between the dunes alongside my homeboys Setho Uwanga, Pele Mwatunga, Garrincha Nyau, Actos Cloete, the late Costa Lukas and many others. 
“In those years, games were played between Oshiwambo and Damara speaking boys and the winning prize was mostly sweets or few beverages bottled homemade ginger, eish those were the good old days,” recalls boeta Whacks. 

In 1975, Willem was obliged to leave his birthplace when his father Fundeni Ashipembe packed his bags and headed northwards, only to resurface at Oneshila, Oshakati, to pursue business opportunities booming in the vastly populated town.
He started his primary schooling at the Okatana High Primary and continued to play football for the school’s football team. 
Although he started in the reserves, Willem was duly promoted to the school’s first team in his second year after the bulk of the first-team squad members went into exile. “We used to compete against teams from schools in the surroundings but our toughest opponents were Oniimwandi because they had excellent footballers”.   

Upon completion of his primary tuition, Willem graduated to the Oshakati Secondary School for his Std 6 (grade 8) where he met the late pair of Zondi Shipuata and Tostao Veiyo Petrus, as well as Boy-Boy Ndevaetela. The quartet became close buddies. 
“Despite our God-given talent, it was a tall order to convince team selectors that we could play decent football, as we were overlooked – and as a result could not make it into the school’s team, let alone the second team. 
“The big guys who have been around for a while were always preferred ahead of us, even though the majority of them did not possess the required skills.” 

Left to kick their heels in frustration, the seasider and his newly-found buddies resolved to start their football team, which led to the unavoidable birth of Teenagers Football Club to keep themselves busy playing against other low key teams at the hostel
Nonetheless, there were other talented footballers at Oshakati Secondary School, which included the likes of Louw Andreas, the late Choice Kaasheta, Kondo Jafet, Seseseko and few others. 

A bird of passage, Willem, migrated to the Copper Town (Tsumeb) and found himself at the revered Oshikoto Secondary School, where he completed his Standard 8 (grade 10)  before moving down south to the city of bright lights (Windhoek) to further his academic aspirations at the Augustineum Secondary School.

Here, Ekaku was to be reunited with homeboys, the pocket-size Koko Muatunga, Daddy Uushona, Dave Luanda, Pineas Kambonde, the late Listo Mupupa, Foresta Nicodemus and Pecks Uushona.
He joined hostel outfit Golden Bees, made up of predominantly Oshiwambo speaking students, pitted against fellow hostel teams Windhoek City (Ovaherero students) Bucs and Rocking FC (a mixture of students from the south and east). 
“Football at school was very competitive in those days; we used to compete fiercely against fellow hostel teams for regional bragging rights, but more importantly for places in the school’s football teams. 

“We had a decent bunch of great athletes at Augustineum and could harm any team at any given time. Okakarara SSS and St Josephs SS (Dobra) were our biggest bitter rivals. The hard as nails towering defender rose to prominence in his second year when he was selected for the school’s first team. 

Amongst his teammates were; dribbling wizard Dawid “Crockett” Hangula, Collin Usurua, Robert “Botha” Bauleth, Issaskar “ST” Kamundu, Koko, Ivan Garoeb, Giddies Gawanab, Mbeuu Tjozongoro, Godfrey Damaseb, Ndeshi Petrus, Dave Luanda, Pecks Uushona, Sugar Matuiipi, Reinhold Shilongo and Pinehas Kambonde

His outstanding performance for the school team did not go unnoticed, as Ekaku was selected for the South West Africa (SWA) Provincial Under-19 team that toured Cape Town with fellow school mates Koko and Ivan in 1982. 
“We played in a youth tourney against Western Province Invitational teams. Out of the five matches played, we only lost one match but did enough to be crowned overall winners but on a personal note, wearing the provincial Zebra badge was something that I would always treasure for the rest of my life”.    

It was not long before Ekaku received an SOS from boyhood team Omeya who for some strange reason took a bit longer to realise his full potential. “It was a dream come true for me to don the blue and white strip of my boyhood team”. 
After just one season with his beloved Omeya, Ekaku found himself back in his adopted town Oshakati and joined Golden Bigs FC. 
In the meantime, the urge to revive Teenagers was growing stronger and some of the team’s founding members teamed up to make their dream come true. 

Teenagers were reawakened in 1984 with “Ekaku” and former teammates Ndevaetela, Shipiki, Shipuata and Petrus with the assistance of schoolteachers Valianus Tshitayi, Immanuel Nakashole and the late school Principal Tate Gerson Shipuata, spearheading the process and as they say, the rest is history.

The group put shoulder to the wheel and managed to convince potential sponsors to come on board. “Our main sponsor was local business mogul Tate Frans Indongo of Continental Shops”. 

The re-energised outfit went onto enjoy unsurpassed success on the field that included historic wins against Sorento Bucks and Young Ones in the Mainstay Cup, only to stumble against Chief Santos in the semifinal. Though many strikers dreaded facing Ekaku, he says he did not enjoy playing against Golden Bigs’ uncompromising midfielder, the late Tommy Trou. Ekaku, grew up admiring former African Stars strongly built centre back Albert Tjihero, whom he describes as the “VvD” of Namibian football.


Carlos Kambaekwa
2020-05-08 09:37:33 | 3 months ago

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