The sacred garden town of Okahandja has in the past unearthed a significant number of great athletes - footballers in particular, that went on to become household names in the top echelons of domestic football.
Names that spring to mind are: Jan Jonker-Afrikaner, the legendary Oscar “Silver Fox’ Mengo, George Gariseb, Doc Naobeb, Kiro Makati, Tjihero brothers Albert, Jamanuka, Times Goagoseb, Ace Tjirera, Hassie Mingeri, Gotty Geiseb, Jesse Diergaardt, Vincent “Botsotso” Hermann, Merino Kandonga, Thanib “Bastardo” Straightwolf and in the intervening years, Congo Hindjou, Erastus Gariseb, Marko van Wyk, Bimbo Tjihero and Rhoo Gariseb.
Across town in the affluent residential area, former Ramblers and Brave Warriors inspirational skipper Roelof Pahl, aka “Rudi or “Paaltjies”, amongst his adoring teammates was arguably the most easily recognizable footballer from that neck of the woods apart from the Okahandja Manschaft pair of Jerry Shepperson and the ever present outspoken local businessman Shorty Da Costa.
OKAHANDJA - Born Roelof Phal on the 5th of September 1963, from the well-to-do property developers the Pahl family – young Rudi was destined for the bigger stage.
A late starter in the real sense of the word, the tireless defensive midfielder played most of his football beyond Namibian borders during his formative years as a student.
Fitted with an amazing big engine defying his tiny frame, the stocky midfielder surprised friend and foe as he defied tradition by joining forces with the predominantly English-speaking multi-racial Ramblers Football Club ahead of Sport Klub Windhoek (SKW) aka “Imawida” – much to the chagrin of the conservative German-speaking community who gravely felt betrayed by their own kith and kin.
wHaving played at the high level with Old Mutual and Clyde Pinelands Football Clubs in Cape Town, South Africa – Rudi was a notch above his peers in terms of basics, technical ability, and was a brilliant reader of the game.
His arrival at the new-look Pionierspark outfit coincided with the club’s aggressive transformation drive that saw a number of sizeable athletes across the colour line join Rammies en masse.
“Paaltjies” wasted little time and immediately endeared himself to the hearts of the usually hard to please Ramblers’ followers whilst his trademark never-say-die attitude obliged head coach Gary Sales to install him as captain of the team. Under his captaincy, the rejuvenated Ramblers outfit swept their opponents aside to clinch the coveted Novel Ford Premier League title in 1992.
“Paaltjies” hit the ground running, fostering an amazing telepathic partnership with the quartet of old time campaigners Jorge da Puricacao, Packs Uushona, Nikita Hivei and Brian Chatburn in a midfield combination considered the finest in the business at the time.
As it turned out, Ramblers clinched the coveted league title in amazing fashion as they shook off some unwanted attention from the chasing pack quartet of Young Ones, Liverpool, Blue Waters and African Stars in an exciting season that saw newcomers Challengers fail to register a single win in the Novel Ford Premiership campaign.
Winning the coveted league title finally paved the way for the resurgent Tunschell Street Boys to conquer Africa in the highly competitive continental club competition.
The Namibian champions started their assault in the prestigious club championship with an away tie against Mozambican champions Costa do Sol in Maputo.
The match, staged in front of a capacity crowd at the Eusebio stadium, got off to a lively start when the visitors took a shock lead – courtesy of Paaltjies’ courageous effort. The tough-as-steak blonde midfielder bundled the ball into the net following a goalmouth melee to make it 1-0 in favour of Rammies.
However, the lead was chalked off with two quicksilver goals to manufacture a hard-fought 2-1 goal victory - going into the decisive second leg away in Windhoek, which finished goalless.
“Paaltjies” was also in the thick of things when Rammies reached the final of the lucrative Metropolitan Champion of Champions Knockout Cup under the stewardship of shrewd mentor Gary Sales who joined the ambitious club from Arsenal via Young Ones FC in 1991.
In a match that was there for the taking, Rammies surrendered a 2-goal lead to lose 3-2 to cross town bitter rivals African Stars in the final of the Metropolitan Cup in 1993.
Rudi was amongst a quartet of Rammies’ strong contingent of squad members selected for the Brave Warriors alongside defenders Frederick “Tollie” van Wyk, Dawid “Donkey” Madjiet and serial lethal net rattler Joseph “Draaitjies” Martin.
The inspirational Rammies talisman was deservedly rewarded with the captain’s armband and would go on to skipper the emerging Brave Warriors in several internationals in Afcon and World Cup qualifiers, respectively, but as fate would dictate the 29-year-old midfielder’s romance with domestic football was abruptly interrupted.
The tireless versatile athlete resolved to pack his bags embarking on a European journey only to resurface in the land of his ancestors Germany in the town of Charlottenburg, in pursuit of furthering his academic aspirations to become a qualified physiotherapist and osteopath.
A fitness fanatic and regular campaigner in the annual Desert Dash Run, Paaltjies switched to triathlon in Germany and stopped playing competitive football to concentrate on his books finally bidding goodbye to the game that took him to several African countries.
However, he still plays the odd game in the popular annual social Xmas Cup, notably when he is back at home during the festive season.