• June 6th, 2020

Football legend bids farewell to Mother Earth...Ode to “Buti Nande” 1947 - 2019

Namibia woke up to the devastating news of the sudden passing of one the country’s most colourful athletes, one Johannes Nande Mbako, aka “Nandos” on Tuesday after losing a long battle with ill-health.

Born in the small mining enclave of Abenab near Grootfontein on April Fool’s Day in 1947 - Nandos relocated to the city of bright lights (Windhoek) aged  three with his parents where he later enrolled at the Rhenisch Mission Herero School in the old location, nowadays known as Hochland Park.

It was in the dusty streets of the old location where young Nandos learnt the ropes on how to man the sticks. His huge frame made perfect to be entrusted with the responsibility of controlling the last line of defence.
He was amongst very few footballers from his generation who graduated from street football straight into first team action after he was snapped up by Tigers Football Club at the tender age of 16. 

At “Ingwe”, bro Nandos found himself in the good company of elder brother Tives in the star-studded Tigers squad alongside Onesmus Akwenye, the sextet of fast as lightning winger Honnie Ochurub, Onesmus Akwenye, Coloured Kakololo, Times Mwetuyela, Ferdinand Akwenye and Syd Urib.

The author is well placed to narrate the football journey of Buti Nande. When I started watching football in the late sixties, Tigers were without a shadow of doubt the finest football team in the business – sweeping their opponents aside with brutal force.

Back in the day, money used to be a rare commodity, obliging one to wangle your way inside the stadium – I would wait at the gate for Tigers’ squad members to arrive at the field on foot and would beg Buti Nandos to help him carry his makeshift tog-bag, a torn plastic bag containing his worn out Adidas pair of togs just to gain free entry into the stadium.

Well, any investment in any kind of relationship must be reciprocated, so I was obliged to shout my lungs out for every dive executed by “The Big Cat”.


WINDHOEK - The old Katutura stadium, renamed Sam Nujoma stadium in later years, used to be Ingwe’s fortress – leaving the likes of Orlando Pirates, African Stars, Rocco Swallows, Pirates (Dolam) Jungle Boys and Black Africa content to be playing second fiddle to the Times Mwetuyela-inspired Tigers.

The blue and white stripped Donkerhoek outfit were unstoppable at the grassy park (Okahozu) and at the peak of his game, Nandos was without an iota of doubt the best net minder in the country and was a marvel to watch with his breathtaking mid-air saves which left dozens of opponents speechless. 

As an old buddy, it was much easier for the author to sit “The Cat” down for an exclusive interview to take us through his football safari that took him across the Orange River via a marathon rail journey. In his own words, two of his teammates abandoned the tour halfway in Keetmanshoop – citing homesickness.   

Added Nandos: “In one of our many encounters with Orlando Pirates, we beat them in front of their own supporters at a packed to rafters stadium in Keetmanshoop in the final of a knockout cup competition. 
“I was on top of my game on that particular day, stopping everything thrown at me with the late Timo netting the winner in that historic thriller. In those days, we never had coaches but I was somehow fortunate because I had this German bloke who used to graft at Ernst Holtz Outfitters.” 

“He took me through the ropes at almost every available opportunity,” Nandos fondly recalled,
The strongly-built shot stopper went on to represent the star-studded South West Africa Invitational Bantu Eleven on numerous occasions. 

Buti Nande once stunned a packed Orlando Stadium in Soweto when he scored a goal directly from a goal kick against a Transvaal Invitational Eleven. He was a master in set pieces and outfoxed most of his outfield counterparts with his deadly left foot in dead ball situations.

During our conversation, Buti Nandos admitted that he was in absolute awe of former SWA teammates Tommy Uushona, Wherrick Uerivara Goroseb-Zimmer, Spokes Tibinyane, Black Kangootui, Eddie Cloete, Lemmy Narib, Pius Eigowab, former teammate Coloured Kakololo and the late pair of Paul Willemse and Gabes Mupupa.

“That boy Eigowab was a hot potato to handle, notably when he opted to execute his trademark bicycle kicks,” reflected “The Cat”.

However, it was not always soft pedalling and smooth sailing for the talented giant goalie as he recounted some of the most unattractive experiences in his short but illustrious football career. 
“Travelling outside town was always a nightmarish experience, making use of an open truck owned by the late Karl Haukaa Kazondunge,” said Nandos. 

He will be best remembered for his attack on a municipal police officer after the trigger-happy cop threatened to shoot his brother Jeff. Nandos would have none of that and bravely deposited a jigsaw in the face, an offence that landed him behind bars for assaulting a white man.   

Pissed off with the much-despised apartheid laws and persistent harassment by the Bowker boys – the 27-year-old Nandos resolved to pack his gloves for good. 

He headed for Zambia in August 1974 to join the armed struggle with Swapo in the fight to liberate his native land from the South African apartheid regime. 

Upon his return to his motherland, Nandos reunited with his beloved Tigers. He was installed team manager and steered to a trident of successive cup finals before calling it a day after some of the playing staff could no longer keep pace with his army-style man management. 

Never shy to speak his mind, the retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force minced no words as he strongly believed modern footballers lacked discipline, dedication and creativity. 
“In our days, there were no camping ahead of big matches but we were still dedicated to the game and played for pride, unlike today’s footballers who are more prone to playing to the gallery. Modern players lack the required physical strength and have developed a tendency of trying to walk the ball in the net when the goal is begging,” added Nandos. 

Nandos could not resist a parting shot at the fashion in which the beautiful game is administered in Namibia and called on football authorities to stop paying lip service to things and to start decentralizing all national teams as football is currently just centred in urban areas. “The NFA should genuinely involve former players to assist with the development of the game at grassroots level and should also revert back to the old system where trials were held in all corners of the country to identify and unearth raw talent.
“There is also an urgent need to establish a Shadow Brave Warriors team to allow for the gradual process of integration into the senior national team,” concluded Nandos.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man – “Buti Nande” you might be gone to be reunited with your ancestors but without a doubt, the name Nandos “The Cat” Mbako will feature prominently in the annals of Namibian football history, simply because whenever Bro Nandos was in mean mood, very few peers could match his exploits between the sticks.Nandos Mbako, Horongo Haufiku, Times Mwetuyela.

Carlos Kambaekwa
2019-09-27 10:17:16 | 8 months ago

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