Death has struck domestic football once again following the sad passing of former Blue Waters Football Club versatile defender Jeremiah Shikongo, aka “Jerry” amongst his vast circle of friends.
The big frame winger-cum-fullback succumbed to illness at the Katutura State Hospital last Saturday after losing a long battle with diabetes. He will be sorely missed by those who have come to know him during his illustrious football career with the “Beautiful Birds” and the exciting Coastal Invitational Eleven. Jerry rose from a skinny raw winger to a formidable defender and club captain – succeeding the departed Willibard Pari Shekupe, whose life was tragically cut short by a freak sea accident. He was amongst a galaxy of Omeya’s golden generation – spearheading a fairly young squad of Nemah “Lemmy” Lazarus, Ranga Lucas, Immanuel Kamuserandu, Riva Jakonia, Simon “Motwa” Mwandingi, Samuel Niilenge, Kaputji Kuhanga, Kapwii Angula and the Amadhila siblings Zondi and Mathew. Your typical old-fashioned right winger, Jerry used to torment robust defenders with relative ease, blessed with a combination of brutal strength, amazing speed and huge octane winning mentality while packing dynamite in his trusted right boot, which stood him head and shoulders above the rest of his peers in the business.
GROOTFONTEIN – Born Jeremiah Shikongo, in Namibia’s largest harbour town Walvis Bay in 1951 – Jerry spent a significant chunk of his formative years juggling between Walvis Bay and Grootfontein.
He started playing football in Oshiwanda Shongwe (Grootfontein) as barefoot toddler in the Omulunga township, chasing an inflated piece of leather with other young boys in the shape of Kayele Kambombo, Pieces Damaseb and Joel Andima, for unfashionable outfit Ricket FC.
However, it was not long before the smell of the Atlantic Ocean got the better of him as young Jerry found himself back in familiar territory, aged eight.
Upon his return to the place of his birth, Jerry teamed up with the quartet of Leo Shimbuli, Ranga Lucas, Simon Mwandingi and giant shot stopper Bonnetti Niilenge to form a new football team. He insisted the newly established team adopt the same name of his Omulunga outfit Ricket FC and as they say, the rest is history.
In the meantime, Jerry had grown in stature and was deservedly recruited for Blue Waters’ third strings but only spent a full season with the Birds’ reserves before he was elevated to the Birds’ first team. He found himself surrounded by greats such as Lukas Hipondoka, Dingaan Shipahu, Ringo Nakanuku, Gowola Mupupa, Kapwii Hangula, Lemmy Lazarus and the great Bernard Phillemon Da Costa.
He was soon followed by an influx of exciting youngsters, led by Ranga Lucas, Kaputji Kuhanga, Kayele Kambombo, Pari Shekupe, Immanuel Kamuserandu, Riva Jakonia, Simon Motwa, Freddy Bratha and the Amadhila siblings Theu and Zondi.
The Birds became a formidable force to be reckoned with in domestic football, particularly during the popular knockout cup competitions, winning several tournaments in towns such as Keetmanshoop, Tsumeb, Otjiwarongo and Windhoek.
His near faultless display week in and week out earned him the captain’s armband and he would become the longest serving club captain in the history of Omeya.
A goal scorer of note, Jerry always registered his name on the score sheet in a career that stretched to almost two decades. In later years, Jerry was converted from right wing to right fullback – a position he immediately made his personal fortress.
He was in the starting lineup when “Omeya” confronted cross-town neigbours Sparta in the first ever football match to be played across the colour line in that neck of the woods. Omeya narrowly lost 2-1 in that particular exhibition match.
Off the field, Jerry played an instrumental role in the recruitment of two of the finest wingers at the time in the shape of Life Fighters pair of Kaputji Kuhanga and Immanuel Kamuserandu.
It was during the time of the countrywide students’ uprising with dozens of locals skipping their motherland into exile to join the Swapo Liberation Movement in Angola and Zambia respectively.
The Birds suffered a major blow when club stalwarts Lemmy and Zondi both skipped their native land, in 1976. Jerry’s proudest moment was when he headed a classical goal past the legendary shot stopper Joseph “Banks” Sethlodi in an exhibition match between the Western Invitational Eleven and the visiting Kaizer Chiefs at a packed to rafters Katutura stadium. The locals lost 5-2. With time passing by and getting a bit long in the tooth, Jerry retreated to his adopted town Grootfontein and joined forces with exciting Omulunga outfit Chelsea FC.
However, it turned out that when the O’Jays soul band composed the hit song “Your body is here with me, but your mind is on the other side of town,” the American musos must have had Jerry Shikongo in mind.
Well, after a short stint with Chelsea, Jerry rejoined Omeya despite still residing in Grootfontein. Jerry played his last competitive match for his beloved Birds against Orlando Pirates in a knockout cup final at Walvis Bay. The overlapping tireless fullback played a blinder in that particular match, setting up both goals netted by young Moloi Amadhila in the 2-all draw – leaving the tie to be decided on penalties with the hosts emerging unscathed in the dreaded penalty shootout. When New Era Sport visited Jerry at his smallholding on the outskirts of Grootfontein in December 2010, Jerry made no secret of his undying admiration for the fierce contests with Katutura giants African Stars and fellow Kuisebmond campaigners Namib Woestyn.
Jerry specifically singled out two players, namely, Oscar Mengo and Axarob Doeseb as the trickiest opponents he had ever faced during his amazing marathon football career.
Bro J, you might be gone to be reunited with your ancestors but your legacy will remain entrenched in the golden pages of our national archives.
Jerry will be laid to rest in Grootfontein tomorrow morning. May his soul rest in peace.