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In conversation with former flying Blue Bird Paulus ‘Wire’ Shipanga

2021-09-17  Carlos Kambaekwa

In conversation with former flying Blue Bird Paulus ‘Wire’ Shipanga
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Wiry former Blue Waters, Eleven Arrows and Bidvest Wits University FC marksman Paulus ‘Paulo’ Shipanga, famously known as ‘Wire’ in football circles, was without an iota of doubt one of the greatest forwards of his generation, making the art of goalscoring look easy like taking candy from a toddler.

Most defenders can attest that facing the speedy winger and spending 90 minutes on the field of play with the Kuisebmond-born lad was a torrid and damn unpleasant experience. Wire was your typical old-fashioned forward, quick off the mark, explosive, charismatic, with a brilliant first touch and clinical in front of goal. 

Growing up in the salty-surfaced streets of Kuisebmond, Walvis Bay’s largest residential area for blacks, young Wire was destined for greatness. The speedy winger rose to prominence when he singlehandedly mesmerised the visiting Westphalia regional youth side at the Kuisebmond Stadium in 1996.

Though he was previously turned away by boyhood team Blue Waters, his impressive display on that particular Saturday afternoon caught the eye of the Birds’ technical team and, as they say, the rest is history. His then promising football career took a turn for the better, as he went on to become one of the most sought-after forwards in the domestic topflight football league.

 

Like many aspiring young footies, Wire was a diehard ‘Omeya’ fan, and his boyhood dream was to don the foam and sea strip of the Beautiful Birds whenever the opportunity arose. However, he was deemed too small and got shown the exit door before kicking a single ball for his boyhood team. 

Nonetheless, this did not discourage him as he continued to flourish at school level, winning his first silverware with his school team. “We won the now defunct annual Hydroweld Under-16 Youth Cup in 1992, and I went on to win the Rössing golden boot award in 1996.”  

Wire started playing competitive football for Young Eleven, a feeder team for local old-time premiership campaigners Eleven Arrows. Amazingly, he was promoted to the first team after his debut season with the maroon-and-gold strip outfit, finding himself in the company of other highly-gifted youngsters shepherded by Eliphas ‘Safile’ Shivute, Kiki Gaseb, Bobby Samaria and the pocket-sized Kondjeni Tjilale, amongst others. 

As it turned out, the teenage speedster did not have to wait too long to pay his boyhood team, Blue Waters, back in their own coin. He bagged his first goal in the country’s topflight league in the hotly-contested coastal derby against the Birds. Sadly, Arrows suffered relegation in his debut season in topflight football. 

However, young Wire had no intentions of restarting his already flourishing football career from scratch in the lower-tier league. He eventually got his long-held wish and joined Blue Waters. In no time, the quicksilver young forward cemented himself as a vital cog in the Birds’ firing line, alongside Angolan import Armando ‘The Bull’ Pedro. 

His impressive display week in and week out did not escape the attention of talent scouts. Wire was soon on the next available flight to the City of Gold, Johannesburg, after sharp-eyed local football agent Colin April struck a lucrative transfer deal with South African giants Bidvest Wits University.

At Wits, he found himself rubbing shoulders with international stars such as Eric Tinkler, Isaac Mabotsa, compatriots Richard ‘Rhoo’ Gariseb and Danzyl Bruwer. After three fruitful seasons with the Milpark outfit, the Clever Boys were surprisingly relegated to the Mvela league, triggering an exodus of big-name stars from the sinking ship. 

Nonetheless, Wire stood firm and played an instrumental role in steering the Students back to familiar territory for an immediate return to the PSL, with an astonishing 98% win rate. His next stop was Malaysia, where he joined forces with Sabah FC before retreating to South Africa, where he resurfaced at newly-formed Bay United FC in the harbour town of Port Elizabeth. 

Back home, the right-footed speedy winger made his international debut for the Brave Warriors against Angola in the regional Cosafa Cup final at Windhoek’s Independence Stadium. Wire was a last-minute inclusion in the hastily-assembled squad after the locally-based Warriors soldiers downed tools when their demands for a hefty appearance fee was shot down by the football association, under the watch of no-nonsense president, now deputy judge-president Petrus Damaseb. 

Regrettably, Wire ended on the losing side. Though the match finished level, the Namibians bowed out on aggregate, having suffered a narrow defeat in the first leg away in Luanda, Angola a week before the decisive second-leg tie. 

“Eish....it was certainly not the best of starts one would have dreamt of, but I could take solace from playing alongside my idol and homeboy, Eliphas Shivute,” recalls the easy-going socialite and now retired winger-cum-league-title winning coach.   

He describes former Brave Warriors and Bidvest Wits University teammate Gariseb and retired Black Africa defender Zedecias Haukambe as his toughest opponents. “Those two guys were physically very strong and always got the better of me in our countless battles.” 

Apart from his amazing football exploits, the multi-talented Wire was a phenomenal sprinter during his school days, excelling in both the 100m and 200m sprints. The sports-crazy Walvis Bay native was also equally at home in the hockey and tennis disciplines, competing with an unbelievable measure of competence. 

Like many highly-gifted young athletes, Wire was not a saint, and often found himself on the crime sheet of match officials. 

He singles out his former coach at Wits, Roger de Sa, as an astute mentor and excellent motivator. “Roger was a genuinely amazing gentleman; always pushing me hard and wanting to get the best out of his subjects.” 

Unlike many footballers who completely disappear from the game upon hanging up their togs, Wire stayed put and joined the Birds’ technical team under the watch of shrewd Zimbabwean mentor Gilbert Rwasoka. He was later elevated to the plum position of head coach. Despite his rookie tag, Wire enjoyed a fairly successful start, steering Omeya to a commendable third-place finish on the Namibia Premier League (NPL) log standings.

His sudden rise to stardom caught the eyes of ambitious NPL giant killers Tura Magic’s management, who dangled a juicy carrot in his baby face to exchange the Atlantic Ocean for the city of bright lights (Windhoek). He announced his arrival on the big stage with another astonishing third-place finish that saw the Magicians tumble the order of the traditional top four finishers. 

In the meantime, Katutura giants Black Africa came calling for his signature after narrowly missing out on their league title defence. Wire responded in the most dignified fashion, reciprocating the trust placed upon him by presenting the Gemengde outfit with the coveted NPL title. 

The amazing new kid on the block was subsequently rewarded with the prestigious coach of the year award during the NPL awards’ ceremony upon completion of the 2018/2019 term. 

A bird of passage, home is always where the heart is, and Wire is now back in familiar territory as head coach of boyhood team Blue Waters. Only time will tell whether he will repeat his feat and bring the elusive league title to the seasiders.  


2021-09-17  Carlos Kambaekwa

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