Katutura glamour football club African Stars always found themselves wanting in the crucial goal-keeping department and it was not until the young acrobatic net-guard in the shape of Asaria Ndjiva Kauami arrived on the scene did the team’s serial Achilles heel stabilise as the team began to make serious inroads into domestic football.
The man from Okaari in the Okondjatu district in the vastly populated Otjozondjupa Region, established himself as the finest shot stopper in the business.
Nonetheless, athletes are not immune to immortality and Ndjiva was no exception to this adage, so the Reds were obliged to find a suitable successor for their blue-eyed last line of defence and certainly netted their target in the skinny student Collin Usurua.
Generally known as Katitja (schoolteacher) for his well calculated grey substance stored between his ears (brains) – the boy from Omaruru was literally thrown into the lions’ den.
Despite the odds stacked against him – young Katitja, aka “Bro K”, managed to weather the storm and fell into the big boots vacated by the legendary Ndjiva with a great measure of maturity.
We caught up with the easygoing retired goalie as he relives his amazing football journey with “Starlile” that propelled him to stand firm during the good and bad times that saw the club almost being relegated from the country’s elite football league on rare occasions.
WINDHOEK – Described as one of the most effective shot stoppers of all time, Katitja paved the way for modern goalkeepers to start playing from the back, with cleverly executed ball distribution turning defence into quick attacks.
The adorable pair of shot stoppers shared lots of similarities – both were raw village boys when they resurfaced in the city of bright lights (Windhoek): same height and body structure, similar style of ball distribution as they were not exactly keen on hooking the ball upfield and would rather prefer to use their hands instead.
Succeeding a club icon was certainly not the easiest of tasks but young Katitja was up to the task and stood his ground. More so, his arrival at the club coincided with the unavoidable exodus of many of the club’s stalwarts who were getting a bit long in the tooth.
Veteran defenders George Gariseb, Albert Tjihero and Alu Hummel were entering the twilight of their flourishing football careers with a significant number of youngsters entering the fray.
Luckily, young Katitja was gradually ushered into the system with the evergreen Ndjiva still around to stretch a helping hand.
And by the time Namibia gained her long overdue democracy from Apartheid South Africa – Katitja had made the number one jersey his own personal property, playing a pivotal role when the Reds claimed the inaugural national mini league trophy in 1990.
He officially launched his amazing marathon football career with the unfashionable Ozondje outfit African Life in his native Omaruru, as a goal hungry net buster.
The football-crazy young fellow eventually graduated to the entertaining star-studded Windhoek City youthful outfit, a hostel team from the revered Augustineum Secondary School on the outskirts of Namibia’s commercial capital Windhoek. He went on to rewrite the history books winning several accolades with the revamped “Starlile”.
Bro K capped his amazing upsurge in topflight football when he was deservedly rewarded with the prestigious captain’s armband – thus becoming the first and only goalkeeper to skipper the team in the Reds’ history.
Occasionally made to share responsibilities with the giant Charles Ngozu as understudies for Ndjiva, young Katitja exercised patience and it finally paid off when he was installed as the Reds’ number one upon the retirement of Ndjiva from competitive football,
He grabbed the opportunity with both hands and will go down in history as one the club’s finest shot stoppers of all time. Katitja made his debut for the Reds against Orlando Pirates in 1982 in the absence of regular keeper Ndjiva. The latter had a family bereavement in the village.
“I was shivering like a faulty car engine begging George Gariseb not to allow the deadly Ben Gaseb to shoot from range,” recalls Katitja. A one-club man, Bro K also had to endure a few unpleasant setbacks when Stars enlisted the services of acrobatic goalie Gruzi Goseb from the relegated now defunct Sorento Bucks.
The latter was at the time the most sought-after goalie in the business – leaving Katitja kicking his heels in frustration on the substitute’s bench, but being the gentleman and loyal soldier of the family he was and always remains, Bro K bided his time until he eventually reclaimed his rightful position between the sticks as the Reds’ number one gloves man.
Itching for sufficient regular game time, the lanky boy from Omaruru almost ditched the Reds for rivals Black Africa in search of regular action but aikona, the wide-awake ‘Starlile’ management under the eagle eyes of Asser Mbai and Oscar Mengo would have none of that. He was subsequently slapped with a six-month suspension for “apparent” insubordination, without a fair trial.
In the intervening years, Bro K led the Reds to their first international excursion when Stars travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for a Caf assignment against Bongo Sport in Mbuji-Mayi in 1994.
“It was the first time we played in front of such a massive crowd of 80,000 people, but it was a good learning experience,” narrates Bro K.
Bro K’s well-decorated trophy cabinet boasts the following items: League Title, Metropolitan Cup, NFA Cup, Castle Cup, Holsten Cup and runner-up medals in the Mainstay Cup, BP Top 8 Trophy and NFA Cup.
The happily married father of three – two sons and a daughter – says he modelled his game on some of the finest shot stoppers in the business: his mentor Ndjiva, Jimmy Orchard, Bruce Grobler, Patson Banda and Banks Sethlodi.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man
Unlike many retired footballers who have turned their backs on the game that has served them handsomely, Katitja has kept a close relationship with the Reds’ hierarchy up to the present day. He was amongst the ringleaders in the successful hosting of the recently concluded historical fundraising campaign for terminally ill former teammate Jackson Meroro.
Under his shrewd stewardship, the gathering proved a huge success and could ultimately lay the foundation for many such events to be staged in the not too distant future, given the sorry plight of dozens of former footballers currently sliding dangerously towards the path of the dinosaur.
Arguably the longest serving goalie in the club’s history, Katitja oversaw several different generations with great aplomb. And who says there’s no life after football? The exemplary self-employed former goalie is the incumbent managing director of Agrifutura, specialising in livestock training for emerging farmers.