Katutura glamour football club African Stars had its fair share of ups and downs in the past, almost getting relegated on a few close calls. However, the timely intervention of a group of talented unknown youngsters, who were thrown into the lion’s den to rescue the sinking ship, ended the club’s seven-year drought.
It will be a grave injustice if we do not mention and recognise the immense contribution of young attacking midfielder, one Uamuina Sadrag ‘Zico’ Tjazerua. New Era Sport caught up with the now-retired playmaker, as he takes you, our esteemed reader, through his untold amazing football journey.
Born in Namibia’s commercial capital, Windhoek, on 1 May 1971, Zico spent a significant chunk of his formative years at the tiny village of Sarie Marais in the Aminius district in the vastly-populated Omaheke region.
He never touched or saw a football during his days at the village, and only came to know the game when he came to the city of bright lights (Windhoek) to start his elementary school at the Berthold Himumuinue primary school in Katutura.
“One of the teachers, Meester Marongo Veii – then a defender for Katutura outfit Hungry Lions – was our coach and took us through the ropes about the techniques of modern football. I used to accompany my elder brothers Sigu and Nduki to their daily training sessions with the Brave Lions of Judah at the rocky field near the Katutura Single Quarters,” recalled Zico.
A bird of passage, Zico found himself at the Waterberg primary school near Okakarara to continue his elementary education. It was here where he started playing competitive football for the school’s football team under the stewardship of former Hungry Lions stylish winger and schoolteacher Abisai ‘Shabby’ Rukero.
Without an iota of doubt, the former African Stars attacking midfielder was the mainstay of the Reds’ flawless engine room, alongside veterans Bernard ‘Tjongwa’ Neumann, Matheus ‘Tsetse’ Nerumbu, and the silky Reinhardt ‘Wagga’ Goagoseb pulling the strings in the middle of the park.
A born baller, Zico showed glimpses of greatness as a youngster whilst a pupil at the Okakarara secondary school holed up in the vastly-populated Otjozondjupa region. The bow-legged silky midfielder was a gifted athlete, possessing all the required attributes of a complete footballer.
“Strangely, my late old lady was very much against my involvement in football and tried by all means to discourage me from playing the game. Truth be told, she desperately wanted me to concentrate on my education but as fate would have it, our school team played a knockout cup tourney in Coblenz. Eish…I was on fire that particular day.
“A local indigenous newspaper Ritunga, which published in the Otjiherero vernacular, could not heap enough praises on my performance. Luckily, my old lady read the article and had a sudden change of heart, ultimately giving her blessing for me to continue playing football.
“I was relieved and could now finally play the game unhindered without any worries. Our school team used to compete fiercely against other schools such as Drimiopses, Opuwo, A. Shipena, Rundu and Paresis secondary schools,” he said.
Zico rose to prominence when he enrolled at the Okakarara secondary school. He joined hostel team Dion, and would often feature for the town’s leading team Kaondeka Aces. Some of his celebrated teammates in the star-studded Dion squad were: Eliphas Shivute, Asia Katjeuru Tjetjinda, Marks Xamseb and Alpha Metirapi.
In the meantime, Zico was briefly relocated to the city of his birth, where he found shelter at the Immanuel Shifidi secondary school. He joined forces with the local youthful social club Young Hungry, later to be known as Namibia Swallows, and also played for the school’s under-16 football team.
However, his lodging in the city of bright lights was abruptly disrupted when he was dispatched back to familiar territory to continue his middle school education in Okakarara. Zico started out in the school’s third string but only lasted one season with the squad before he was deservedly elevated to the first team by wide-awake coach Norii Kaanjuka, and as they say, the rest is history.
After some eye-catching displays, Katutura glamour football African Stars got wind of the young midfielder’s exploits and arranged a quick trip up northeast for a series of exhibition matches against local teams in Okakarara. The ultimate view was to run an eye over the budding star midfielder, who was named amongst the substitutes for the visitors. Zico played a blinder for the visiting Reds.
However, it was not until 1992 that Zico made his official debut for his boyhood team against Sorento Bucks in a friendly at Windhoek’s Independence stadium. His next official assignment in the red, white and blue strip of ‘Starlile’ was against Khomasdal outfit Civics. The fired-up Reds dispatched the hapless Civilians 4-1 at the same venue, with Zico registering his name on the scoresheet.
Zico was amongst a group of upcoming youngsters tasked to steer the struggling sinking ship out of troubled waters alongside other highly-talented young footies in the shape of Goliath Kahoro, Seven Endjala, Hermann Muharukua, Ebson Kauta, Alpha Metirapi, Mannetjie Kaimu, and the highly-gifted Lawrence Tarii Tjarera.
“We had a great bunch of talented young players but my heart is still bleeding to note that some of the boys did not make the grade despite their amazingly God-given talent. Here, I have to mention the name of Lawrence Tjarera. That boy was a gem and could have gone very far and become one of the best footballers in the history of Starlile, had he kept his feet on the ground.
“It was indeed a great honour and privilege sharing the same changing room with great players I always only heard of through radio commentary by the great football guru Kuiri Kaomo Kahorongo.
“Truly speaking, I had goosebumps walking out of the tunnel onto the field, sandwiched by greats Boas Tjingaete, Vemuna Hoveka, Tsetse Nerumbu, Costa Lucas, Bernard Neumann, Nico Hindjou, Rasta Mbuende, Koos Munjanda Muaine and Colin Usurua.
“I must confess Rasta (Mbuende) brought a new dimension to the team’s previously-rigid style of play with his calmness and a phenomenal sense of game-reading. Rasta was so cool and never panicked under pressure, always initiating attacks from the back.
“He was indeed the undisputed star of the emerging Reds’ youthful outfit that took domestic football by storm with a flawless performance that saw the team starting to challenge for silverware on all fronts.
Your typical modern-day box-to-box midfielder, the tireless midfield general always led from the front and would weigh in with crucial goals whenever he was called upon to rescue his team. Befittingly named after Brazilian legend Arthur Antunes Coimbra AKA ‘Zico’, the energetic free-roaming attacker certainly lived up to his name.
Zico was the architect when Stars finished runners-up in the national league title race in 1991, paving the way for continental participation. Stars were eliminated in the Caf Club Mandela Cup by Congolese side Bongo Sport, losing 5-0 on aggregate.
Nonetheless, the highly-gifted midfielder went on to enjoy success with the Reds, helping the team clinch the coveted Metropolitan Super Cup and Castle Classic Trophy at the expense of Ramblers and Black Africa, in that sequence.
Regrettably, the Reds number 14’s blossoming football career was brought to a premature halt while still at the pinnacle of an otherwise promising football career at the prime age of 29, as a result of multiple knee injuries inflicted via harsh tackles by Black Africa defender, the late Ringo Skrywer.