Arguably one of Namibia’s most decorated personalities, ‘Aupie’ will go down in history as a great man of substance, principal, open minded, articulate, knowledgeable, multilingual, well-travelled, well read, man of the cloth, historian, political activist, schoolteacher and above all, an astute administrator. Death has certainly robbed Namibia one of the finest sport administrators of all time.
Just as the country’ was recovering from the sad passing of former football giants Seth Boois, Juku Tjazuko, Erich Muinjo, Peter Henkel, Karl-Heinz Steinfurth, aka ‘Steini’, and Zorro Haoseb, sport followers awoke to the devastating news blurring the departure of a true son of the soil one Aupapa Shipanga. ‘Bazooka’, as Aupie was famously known amongst his vast circle of friends died from cardiac arrest (heart attack) at a Windhoek health establishment on Tuesday night, having clocked 62 summers on his radar. May his soul rest in power.
It’s often pointless to mourn the loss of a loved one, as much as the untimely sudden death of Aupapa Shipanga, sent shockwaves amongst many, New Era Sport would rather celebrate the life of this great son of the soil in the most dignified fashion.
A protégé of the revered Martin Luther High School, (MLH) at Okombahe in the semi desert Erongo region, the late Aupapa was born in Namibia’s commercial capital Windhoek in 1958.
Though he spent most of his formative years in the harbour town of Walvis Bay, Aupie never considered himself as a ‘Baainaar’ and would always boastfully claim that he is a product of Windhoek’s old location his birthplace and wants to be known as such.
An extremely multi talented dude, Bazooka grew up in Walvis Bay after his parents relocated down sea level in search of pastures green in the lucrative fish processing factories. He started at boyhood team Blue Waters’ lower tier teams before graduating to the first team.
And unlike many of his homeboys who descended on the city of bright lights (Windhoek) to enhance their education at the revered Augustineum Secondary School, Aupie went into the opposite direction only to resurface at the politically minded Martin Luther High School at Okombahe in the Erongo region and as they say, the rest is history.
After matriculating with flying colours, he started teaching at MLH for a brief period before he packed his bags to advance his academic aspirations at the University of Swaziland, alongside homeboy Hiskia Angula. Incumbent Mamelodi Sundowns owner and South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe was a fellow student at the learning institution.
It was in Swaziland where he rose to prominence as a much sought after attacking midfielder. ‘Bazooka’ joined local team Manzini Wanderers Football Club and would go onto represent the maroon and white strip with great aplomb.
However, his exceptional exploits on the playing field did not go unnoticed and the country’s football authorities rewarded him with a call up to the Swaziland national senior football team. At the time, Namibia was not recognized by the World’s football governing body Fifa as a result of South Africa’s skewed Apartheid laws. His marriage to a gorgeous eSwati lass made things even easier as he was comfortably registered under the assumed name of Reginald Shipanga.
In between school holidays, he would proudly represent boyhood team ‘Omeya’ in domestic competitions under his real identity Eliphas Shipanga, since many Namibians, including football authorities, were unaware of his camouflaged status in the tiny Southern African nation enveloped in South Africa.
Apart from football, Aupie was a mean sprinter on the athletic track excelling in the 400meters, discus and long jump. He also played a big role in students’ politics and was a staunch paid up member of the ruling party Swapo. Upon retirement from competitive football, ‘Bazooka’ turned his hand to football administration and coaching.
He mentored Katutura giants Tigers and Hungry Lions at different intervals. History reveals that he was the third Secretary-General of the Namibia Football Association (NFA), succeeding Sebastian Kamungu. The latter took over the reins from Steve Stephanus after Namibia gained her democracy in 1990.
He also served on various portfolios and was instrumental in drafting the National Commission’s Sport (NSC) act of 2003, ultimately paving the way for the unavoidable formation of the NSC. Aupie also led different sport codes as Chef de Mission on foreign trips and also served as team manager of the Brave Warriors.
Aupie’s younger brothers Britho and Lucky Shipanga were formidable footballers in their own right while cousins Don and Jacqui have also made their mark in the annals of domestic football. In the meantime, various social media groups were abuzz with messages of condolences for the departed football administrator-cum-political activist;
“Almighty father and eternal god hear our prayers for our departed brother and friend Eliphas ‘Bazooka’ Shipanga, who you have called from his life to yourself god. Grant him light, happiness, and peace let him pass through safety through the gates of death and may he live forever with the angels and saints in the light you promised to Abraham and his descendents in faith. Be with him lord and on that day resurrection in reward, raise up our brother, pardon and give him eternal life in your kingdom. We ask of these fro Bazooka through Christ our lord and savour”....Amen, May his soul rest in eternal peace”, reads a touchy message of condolences from his former team Manzini Wanderers Football Club.
“What can we say, here lies a gentleman, a Klinsman, soldier, humanist, Manzini Wanderers legend, father, brother and friend to all. Shall we mourn his death, NO!, not at all. We shall celebrate his life by emulating his great deeds even in little for who can ever emulate such a great giant par excellence. Henceforth, we celebrate his humanity because he was larger and bigger than life, his default was his brotherhood and giving generously to all, who had the privilege to rub shoulders with him including his passion for the game of football and sport at large, will forever be acknowledged and much appreciated. Eliphas Aupapa ‘Bazooka’ Shipanga, lived life to the fullest and gave his all. A hero of our time, the Manzini Wanderers family will forever be grateful that you were in our midst...Hamba Kahle Mfowethu”, reads a message from Manzini Wanderers Legends.
Other tributes were as follows; “Sad news, personally and for Namibian sport,” said Bolle Hans. “RIP Aupie, good memories at MLH,” said Joshua Haufiku. “Wow!!! What a shock and loss of a dear friend over so many years, go well broer,” Calle Schafer said. “Big loss to Namibian sport,” said Freddy Mwiya.
Aily Hangula Paulino said: “Hamba Kahle Bhuti Wam, Umsebenzi wakho emhlabeni uqinile, lala ngo xolo, Bazooka is quite bye-bye my brother, your work in the world is strong.” Harald Kambrude added by saying: “I’ve no words, we spoke just two weeks ago, rest in peace, my dear brother.”
“So sad, go well my brother till we meet again in heaven,” said Tostao Imbili. “I met Aupapa through football and even though we were on opposing teams, what a sincere gentleman, I learnt valuable lessons from him, well-respected human being and kindhearted, go well my brother,” added Paul Strauss.