Strangely, apart from the great Brazilian Edson Arantes Donascimento, aka Pele and Cristiano Ronaldo, a significant chunk of the world’s finest footballers happens to be left footed. Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Percy Tau, Ryan Giggs, Mo Salah, //Nerab Gariseb, Britho Shipanga, Gareth Bale, Norries Goraseb, Ben Gaseb, Lawrence Chellin, Pro Mlungisi Ngubane, Querra Jacobs, Antoine Griezmann, Shoes Shitembi, Siggy Anderson and Kaputji Kuhanga are amongst those that comes to mind.
Back in the day, when the South African Apartheid regime resolved to abolish racial segregation in 1977 - allowing darkies and larneys to mingle freely with each other on the sports fields without discrimination – football was amongst the very first sporting disciplines to embrace the sudden winds of change.
Well, it so happened that the country’s football authorities were obliged to select the first multi racial team to compete in the prestigious South African Provincial Currie Cup tournament in East London, South Africa.
Notwithstanding the visible majority and natural ball skill of the black folk, the traveling entourage had an explained sizable number of 10 whites and five black squad members – very much against the spirit of reconciliation and fair play.
Amongst those from the previously disadvantaged communities was a left footed midfielder, going by the name of Lionel “Boet” Mathews.
The latter was a product of the newly formed multi racial football team City United – a splinter group from Atlanta Chiefs (Khomasdal) and Windhoek City Football Clubs. New Era Sport caught up with the multi talented adorable Capetonian as he relives his football journey.
WINDHOEK – History reveals that Khomasdal first citizen, the football crazy hippy-look-alike Uncle Bob Sissing, was constantly at the forefront of matters concerning the welfare of the beautiful game of football, especially in the area of transformation.
Indeed Uncle Bob was always a god yard ahead of his competitors. Founder of exciting Khomasdal outfit Atlanta Chiefs FC, Bobby assembled a strong squad in his unquenchable desire to match the exploits of Katutura giants African Stars, Black Africa, Orlando Pirates and Tigers for supremacy.
Despite its relative small population, Khomasdal had too many football clubs spearheaded by Thistles, Marits, Strangers and Atlanta Chiefs and as a result, most of the best athletes on offer were split between the teams.
This motivated the wide awake Uncle Bob to cast the net wider as he tiptoed across the Orange River, South Africa to recruit good footballers from that neck of the woods – enticing them with better employment opportunities.
The football crazy defender-cum administrator, managed to sweet talk several formidable footballers from the Mother City - amongst them; Willy Rwida, Raymond “Gogo” Barrera, Jeff Dawids, Ronald Wentzel, John Abrahams and the 16-year old left footed midfielder Lionel Mathews, better known as “Boet” in football circles.
Needless to note that the latter was the most gifted amongst the arriving South African imports. Boet was your typical modern day box-to-box midfielder. What he lacked in speed and physical appearance, the “Little Napoleon” possessed almost all the attributes required from a complete playmaker.
In no time, Atlanta Chiefs became the toast of Khomasdal, attracting large crowds to their exhibition matches while winning several domestic knockout cup tournaments.
As it stands, the year 1977 will be best remembered and goes down in the golden pages of our archives as the defining moment when the face of domestic football was to be transformed via the unavoidable introduction of multi racial football.
Unfortunately, this also coincided with the inevitable death of Chiefs as some of the club’s leading players joined the newly formed multi racial City United FC competing in the inaugural edition of the highly competitive Central Football League (CFA).
The newly established star-studded City United boasted a lineup of Ian Wood, Peter Rath, Vic Lovell, Siggy Anderson, Stakes Coetzee, John Abrahams, George Hill, Ronnie Hoole, Claasen brothers Chris and Paka as well as mercurial midfielder Lionel “Boet” Mathews.
And although City ended in a disappointing 3rd place by their own standards adrift of league winners Ramblers and runner up African Stars, serial net buster Siggy Anderson won the golden boot with a staggering tally of 30 goals, closely tailed by teammates Stakes and Chris on 28 apiece.
After just one season in the topflight football league, City folded with some of its playing personnel seeking greener pastures elsewhere. And whilst the pair of “Woody” and Hill joined forces with ambitious Pionierspark outfit Ramblers – Boet resurfaced at emerging youthful Khomasdal outfit Young Ones FC, then campaigning in the second tier division.
Abundantly blessed with a unbelievable brilliant first touch complimented by accurate passes, the humorous easygoing adorable Capetonian played an instrumental role in the Khomasdalers’ subsequent upsurge in domestic football.
He almost single handedly propelled the “Kings at Night” as Young Ones was affectionately known amongst its ardent followers for their eye catching one touch football to promotion in the top tier league. The team became synonymous for bamboozling their opponents at will with their slick passing, notably when playing under floodlights. Young Ones deservedly gained promotion to the elite football league (CFA) in 1982.
The much adored “Kings at Night” in no time stamped their authority announcing their arrival on the big stage as a major force to be reckoned with while earning the “giant killers tag.
Young Ones deservedly won the hearts of many a neutral football fan with their simple near faultless passing game based on ball possession.
The afro-haired attacking midfielder was the catalyst when Young Ones clinched their first major cup final in the topflight football.
The Lance Willemse inspired exciting youthful red and white strip Khomasdal outfit walloped pre tournament favourites Chelsea by 4 goals to 1 to claim the maiden edition of the coveted Metropolitan Floating Trophy at the old Katutura stadium in 1986.
And to put the cherry on top of an otherwise near faultless football career, the midfield genius was handsomely rewarded when he was installed as player-coach, overseeing astonishing victories in the Castle Laager and Mainstay Cup finals in consecutive seasons. However, as fate would dictate, his flourishing football career was abruptly abbreviated by a niggling back injury. Despite the setback, the multi talented award winning sport writer has no regrets about exchanging his native mother city for his adopted land of the Brave.
“I’m very thankful to uncle Bobby Sissing, who brought me to Windhoek as a 16-year old stray boy from Cape Town. Had I stayed longer in Cape Town I would have been statistics by now because of the prevailing evils of society and gangsters activities.
“I was a lost young soul, aimlessly roaming around the streets with no proper shelter, sleeping in other people’s backyards on cold nights, sometimes not even knowing where my next meal was going to come from,’ reveals the now semi retired pen pusher.