Unwavering patriotism, moral duty and above all an unquenchable passion for writing, informing, teaching and entertaining has finally obliged the author to drag myself out of my sickbed to pay homage to our departed sporting heroes who have fallen victim to the devastating, shameless Covid-19 pandemic that has been ravaging like wildfire through our loved ones left, right and centre.
It’s a with a heavy heart that I’ve learned about the sad departure of more than a dozen Namibian sports legends and administrators who have served the local games well in their respective portfolios.
Just a few months ago, New Era Sport unleashed the previously untold sporting journey of the multi-talented Paramount Chief (PC) of the Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA), Advocate Vekuii Rukoro, and we received tremendous responses as many were unaware of his amazing sporting exploits.
Namibia has been flooded with the news of sudden deaths from all corners. In today’s edition of your favourite weekly sport feature Tales of the Legends, profiling our sporting heroes, past and present, New Era Sport pays a dignified tribute to our departed athletes. May their souls rest in power, collectively.
Vekuii Rukoro 1954 -2021
Many came to know him as the handsome legal guru-cum-politician-turned Paramount Chief (PC) of the Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA), but the big-frames Otjiwarongo-born lad was a multi- talented athlete who excelled in rugby, boxing, football and long-distance running. He was captain of the St Joseph’s Secondary School (Dobra) Rugby Fifteen. The late PC was founder member of the first-ever black rugby team from Katutura, the Jaguars Rugby Club.
Luke Sadike Nepela 1961 - 2021
The ever-present, calculated, well-spoken and strongly-built socialite will be best-remembered for his astonishing administrative acumen. He joined Ingwe’s executive upon Namibia’s democracy, and turned the club into one of the best well-run sports entities in the business. Under his watch, Tigers claimed back-to-back triumphs in the coveted NFA Cups, and went on to represent the country at continental level.
Jonathan Sam 1951 - 2021
I came to know Jonathan Sam as a journalist/photographer with the now defunct Afrikaans weekly newspaper Joernaal in the late 70’s. The publication, step-sister of Die Suidwester Afrikaans daily, was created to cater for low-key community activities and entertainment news in both the impoverished Katutura location and the slightly middle-class Khomasdal township, obviously in a desperate bid to divert attention away from politics. Who will ever forget that fateful day when the ponytail bro J took to his heels, running for cover after enraged players from Swallows were baying for his blood while shooting photos at the old Katutura stadium?
Govolla Mupupa 1948 - 2021
Govolla was the rock of Omeya’s rearguard when the exciting Kuisebmond outfit dominated domestic football in the late Sixties. He was the younger brother of the late Eleven Arrows FC sharpshooter Gabes “Flying Fish” and elder brother of Blue Waters FC tough-tackling fullback Frans Dampy Mupupa. A one-club man, the gap-toothed fullback stood firm and served his beloved Omeya on the Elders Council until his untimely death.
Hassie Mingeri 1954-2021
A proud product of the unofficial school of excellence (Dobra), Hassie was one the most outstanding players in the star-studded school football team, where he formed a dangerous partnership with Meester Willem Hans, Pius Eigowab, John and Mike Hans, and Stouter Ochurub in the firing line. He went on to play for Katutura giants Black Africa, and also represented his motherland in the South African Inter-Provincial Currie Cup in 1979. Having won almost every available silverware there was to be won, Hassie left BA to join bitter rivals African Stars, winning the coveted Mainstay Cup in only his debut season in 1981. He eventually wound up his flourishing football career with ambitious Katutura outfit Sorento Bucks.
Werner Jeffrey 1956-2021
A former cricketer, Bro W will go down in history as one of the most astute sport administrators the country has ever unearthed. He cut his teeth with UNAM, and led the higher learning institution to several international gatherings. Jeffrey was a staunch advocate of justice in sport, and fought gallantly against racial prejudices. His work at undisputed Namibian Rugby champions Unam speaks volumes.
Eben Tjivande Kahimise 1946-2021
One of the most entertaining amateur boxers during the height of Apartheid in Windhoek’s old location. Tjivande was not only a fearless athlete, he also tried his hand at football with overly ambitious OD outfit Flames FC. He was always at the forefront, fighting for restorative justice, and was an unwavering freedom fighter who dedicated his life to the ruling party Swapo.
Izaak Garoeb 1964-2021
The Okahandja-born Zacky joined the “Kings at Night” in 1982, and won promotion to the elite Central Football Association (CFA) League in his debut season for the exciting Khomasdal outfit. He would go on to share the number one jersey with Reus Nortje with great aplomb. A fearless shot- stopper, Zacky ranked amongst the finest net-guards of his generation.
Tobias Hermann 1967-2021
Another product from the garden town, Tobias was the younger brother of the late ball-juggling Vincent “Botsotso” Hermann. The latter enjoyed successful brief stints with both Tigers and Blue Waters before he went into exile, never to return to his motherland. The versatile burly Tobias was an excellent game- reader and could dictate play from the back with his imposing figure. Though his promising football career never really took off, Tobias was very passionate about football, and served the game in various portfolios with distinction, from match officiating to coaching and mentoring youngsters. His impressive CV includes stints with Orlando Pirates, Tigers and Liverpool in the topflight football league.
Willy Tjongarero 1944 -2021
The author is well-placed to narrate the amazing football journey of Willy Tjongarero, aka “Smokey”, for his serial love of puffing on cigarettes at the slightest provocation. I played under uncle Willy when I joined African Stars in 1980 with Dr Dieter Widmann as head coach. He was without an iota of doubt a very astute administrator, who dedicated his entire life and financial resources to Stars. If my recollection serves me right, Willy was the first truly genuine team manager of Stars. He effortlessly marshalled “Starlile” to many unsurpassed accolades, which started with the historic Dave’s Furnishers Cup triumph in 1975. He was also in the dugout when the Reds won back-to-back Mainstay Cup finals in 1980 and 1981, respectively.
Hartmut Bayer 1951-2021
The bearded hard-tackling holding midfielder formed the spine of the all-conquering Ramblers side that took Namibian football by storm at the dawn of multi-racial football in 1977. Rammies won the highly competitive Central League, ahead of Stars, but fell short in the national play-offs, losing to their equally ambitious cross-town rivals Stars in both finals of the national league (4-3) and the coveted Mainstay Cup (2-0).
Hoepela Beukes 1963-2021
History reveals that Hoepela was the first non-white to represent his motherland in the Inter-Provincial Jukskei Tournament. He courageously invaded a sporting discipline previously exclusively reserved for white Afrikaans-speaking folks. The usually easy-going jolly good fellow was also very much involved with sports administration in the Namibian Defence Force (NDF). He also served as an executive member of the Namibia Football Association (NFA).
Steve Muheua 1953-2021 Dawid Ndjoze 1942-2021
Steve arrived in Windhoek to join Flames FC from unfashionable Kuisebmond outfit Red Fire in the mid-70’s. He later changed allegiance and became a diehard African Stars supporter when Flames inevitably went up in smoke. Uncle Dawid was the trusted centre-back partner alongside the late Usiel Tjijenda. Though both towering centre-backs’ awkward style of play did not inspire the confidence of the neutral fan, never mind the odd own goal being a regular occurrence, the ever-present pair were trusted soldiers of an otherwise very average Reds army that lived in the shadow of their more industrious cross-location opponents Tigers.
Harry’ //Garus-Oab 1954-2021
A mean sprinter, agile shot-stopper, internationally acclaimed boxing referee and astute sports administrator, the much-adored bearded boy from the Garden Town has certainly left deep marks in the annals of Namibian sport. A product of the Aurora native school in his hometown Okahandja, young Harry showed flashes of brilliance on the athletics tracks, excelling in the 100m, 200m and 400m sprints. He was also goalkeeper of the school’s football team, playing alongside the likes of Oscar Mengo, Epson “Mostertjie” Eiseb, Merino Kandonga, Doc Naobeb, Lemmy Goagoseb, Festus Kauaaka, Tanib Straightwolf, Zambia Khoeseb and many other highly gifted footies from that neck of the woods.