A proud protégé of the revered Duinesig Primary School, sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the iconic Namib Desert dunes in Walvis Bay’s Kuisebmond, Wycliff Mathou ‘Fire’ Kambonde is a former Blue Waters and Jomo Cosmos FC hard-tackling defender, and also a staunch supporter of Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs.
The football-crazy youngster started chasing an inflated piece of leather while hardly out of his pair of shorts, showing flashes of greatness as a free-scoring attacker during his formative years.
Stylishly going by the nickname of ‘Fire’ amongst his teammates, Kambonde was a regular starter for the school’s youth football teams from under the 10s to the under 12s age groups, winning the golden boot (top goal scorer) in both age categories.
Upon finishing elementary school, the football-crazy boy relocated to Windhoek to further his academic aspirations. The late Lucky Richter was running a football academy at the time and was the head coach of the national under-14 team.
“Coach Lucky gave me a run in the side and I went on to represent the country at under 17, 20 and the Olympic team. I will always have fond memories of our match against South Africa. I was partnering with my homeboy Gottlieb Nakuta in the heart of the defence and had our hands full trying to contain the dangerous strike force of Lerato Shabangu, Daine Klate and Lebogang Mokwena, with Itumeleng Khune between the sticks,” recalled Kambonde with enthusiasm.
“Eish, we somehow managed to weather the storm, and I immediately got an offer from Jomo Cosmos through Colin April after our great performance. That’s how I joined Cosmos. He made his senior debut for the Warriors against Senegal, experiencing a nightmarish day, as he was tasked to mark the free-scoring and tricky forward El Hadji Diouf. However, he must have done enough to be included in the Brave Warriors squad for the 2008 Afcon finals in Ghana.”
Kambonde started playing competitive football for Blue Waters’ traditional feeder team Blue Birds upon completing his studies at high school.
The lethal forward played a role in the young Birds’ promotion to the Southern Stream First Division from the second division, though he did not enjoy much game time. He became a regular starter for the youthful Blue Birds outfit, as his impressive performance did certainly not escape the sharp eye of shrewd Zimbabwean guardian Shepherd Murape.
“We finished as runners-up in only our first season. I won the golden boot award as the leading goal scorer. I was fortunate to have been surrounded by a decent crop of highly-gifted young players.”
In 2004, Murape duly fast-tracked the young hot striker’s unavoidable promotion to the Blue Waters’ first team without hesitation, alongside six other youngsters, joining established stars in the moulds of evergreen defender Khulu Awala, Paulus ‘Wire’ Shipanga, Meraai Swartbooi, Eliphas Heita, Sidney Plaatjies and the free-scoring Angolan import Armando Pedro.
“He (Murape) was like a father to me and shaped me in many other aspects of life. He had that special knack for getting the best out of me and I must confess, I played my best football under coach Murape. Playing alongside Khulu Awala was a dream come true; he was by a decent stretch the finest defensive midfielder in the business.”
In his admission, playing against Black Africa playmaker Lolo Goraseb was always a Mount Kilimanjaro to scale. “Eish, that boy was too skilful and could dribble from tight angles. He was one hell of a handful of customer to deal with.”
Kambonde made his senior debut for the Birds against Life Fighters away in Otjiwarongo and managed to register his name on the score sheet as a right wing. However, after a few more games under his belt, he was shifted to the central midfield position alongside the midfield general Khulu Awala.
It was not long before he was deployed as a centre-back, as the Birds were preparing for a crucial Caf Club Champions League encounter against Angolan giants ASA Angola, away in Luanda.
Unfortunately, the seasiders lost the first leg by three unanswered goals (0-3), but Kambonde played a blinder, drawing praise from Murape and his technical team to the extent that he was redeployed to the central midfield position during the return match in Walvis Bay. The hosts won the decisive second leg 2-1 but sadly went out as a result of an inferior goal difference.
“I must confess that I really enjoyed my football under coach Murape; he always motivated me to work hard at training and remain focused. I would train twice a day alone with the coach in the morning sessions before joining up with the rest of the other squad members in the afternoons. In 2006, as it turned out, Blue Waters sold a total of eight of their best players to South African professional teams. I was amongst the chosen lucky ones alongside teammates Paulus Shipanga, Gotlieb Nakuta, Saul Coetzee, and Sidney Plaatjies.”
“I joined Jomo Cosmos in the PSL with my former Blue Waters teammates and boyhood buddy Nakuta and Coetzee, but the pair left after a few weeks,” he added.
Kambonde was joined at Cosmos by fellow compatriot Lazarus Kaimbi shortly afterwards. After a few impressive performances for the Johannesburg outfit, the Walvis Bay-born footy requested to be given temporary special permission to go back to his native town Walvis Bay.
He was desperate to help his struggling former team Blue Waters avoid relegation as they found themselves lingering at rock bottom on the NPL log standings. In his own words, “I trained with Cosmos during the week and flew to Namibia on weekends to play for Blue Waters in the league”.
He made his PSL debut for Cosmos against Ajax Cape Town, where he came on as a second-half substitute playing as a centre-back. The Namibian defender did not put a foot wrong and was deservedly voted Man of the Match in his debut appearance.
Kambonde was in the starting lineup in Cosmos’ next league match against Platinum Stars. Regrettably, the Namibian sustained a serious knee injury that kept him on the sidelines for a brief period. However, he came back strongly after the devastating career-threatening injury and played a blinder against Thanda Zulu Royals. Unfortunately, Cosmos got relegated at the end of that particular season.
Nonetheless, the team won the second division league title hands down, bouncing back to familiar territory at their first attempt in 2011. Admittedly, Kambonde made a surprise retreat to his coastal hometown, only to be reunited with former team Blue Waters.
“I was glad to be back with my childhood team as I was desperate to plough back the experience gained playing professional league football in one of the best leagues on the continent. To be brutally honest, I enjoyed my return to Blue Waters big time because I was more confident, fearless, fit as a fiddle, and gained valuable experience playing against top-notch players in the highly competitive PSL. The club had a well-balanced youthful team and I was indeed honoured and privileged to have been accorded the rare opportunity of ushering the enthusiastic youngsters into a new era.”
The now peacefully-retired versatile footy played an instrumental role in the Brave Warriors’ flawless march to their second qualification for the biannual continental showpiece – the 2008 Afcon finals in Ghana. Kambonde also represented his motherland with distinction at youth levels.