Without a shadow of doubt, former African Stars burly forward Rhuu Kaumbangere, was one of the greatest footballers of his generation and can be spoken of in the same breath as Orlando Pirates goal ace Ismael “Lemmy Special” Narib, Martin “Zika” Williams, Times Mwetuyela, Honnie Ochuub, Gabes “Flying Fish” Mupupa and Daito Hagedoorn.
The retired lethal marksman entertains us with tales of those thrilling days when footballers would play the game out of sheer passion and affection towards the spherical object, back in the day.
Should a credible book ever be written about the genuine history of domestic football, the name of Raonga Kaumbangere is likely to feature prominently.
When he was at his peak, the big frame centre forward had very few peers if any. The humorous bro Rhuu would bamboozle robust defenders with brutal strength, speed and great finishing in front of the goalposts.
Rhuu was an invaluable member of African Stars’ second generation and despite playing in a squad loaded with fairly average footballers, aggravated by a leaky defence – he stood head and shoulders above the rest.
The bustling forward fearlessly spearheaded the Reds’ firing line alongside Obed Kamburona, Theo Ndisiro, Willem “Scage” Kandjiriomuini, George Hoveka and the tricky Floyd Maharero.
WINDHOEK - History reveals that Katutura glamour football club African Stars Football Club was made to live in the shadow of their more celebrated and star-studded rivals Tigers, Orlando Pirates and in the intervening years Black Africa.
However, it was not until the dawn of the early seventies (70’s) that the football landscape changed with the unavoidable arrival of a vibrant youthful squad, marshaled by a bulky defensive midfielder, going by the name of Justus Uahatjiri Kaika Kuzee.
Born Raonga Kaumbangere in the village of Otjiue Tjombungu in the vastly populated Omaheke Region on the 29th of November 1946 – Rhuu came to the city of lights Windhoek at an early age while hardly out of his pair shorts.
He started his schooling at the revered St Barnabas learning institution in Windhoek’s old location. It was here where he met his boyhood buddies Philip Kapundi Hei, Willem “Scage” Kandjiromuini, Adolph Maheu Kahere, Rick Kukuri, Coskey Ngaizuvare, Mike Pack, Karihurona Makono, Obed Kamburona and George Hoveka.
“In those days recreational facilities were virtually non existent in black townships and as young boys, we were obliged to while away time by engaging in football. The only ball easily accessible was a tennis ball, so we played with a tennis ball,” recalls Rhuu.
Born a bulky boy, he was deemed unfit and too immobile to be an outfield player and would start his football career as a goalkeeper.
Rhuu manned the sticks in his formative years as footballer but soon graduated to a menace striker terrorising robust defender with brutal force and speed.
After sporadic stints with small football teams Naughty Boys, Eleven Brothers and Paradise Football Clubs – Rhuu got his big break when he joined African Stars as an 18-year-old youngster to start playing competitive football.
There was no organised structures such as leagues or youth football – it was just a free for all. Apart from playing against football local teams, we traveled a lot outside town to small towns, notably Okahandja and Gobabis.
“We were obliged to collect stray empty bottles and sell and from those proceeds, we could cover our traveling expenses.” He made his official debut for the Reds in a knockout cup match against Epako outfit Sunshine in Gobabis.
“Luckily, we won the cup but there were always disturbances with players constantly refusing to accept or adhere to referees decisions whenever calls went against them,” he told New Era Sport.
As time went by, Rhuu was upgraded to the position of forward exchanging his gloves fro shooting boots with new arrival, the 12-fingered Ripuree Hoveka, younger brother of George Kanima Hoveka, shifting between the sticks.
Rhuu immediately announced his arrival as a goal poacher with splendid performances in the Reds firing line rattling the net with ferocious bullet like pile drivers that left many goalkeepers in pain and agony – let alone fractured fingertips.
“Football was tough and extremely competitive in those days but we somehow managed to weather the storm and won few knockout cups on the way. I vividly remember ending on the winning side in a cup final against Zika Williams’ inspired Rocco Swallows (Windhoek).”
“We also reached the ill-fated cup final against Life Fighters in Otjiwarongo, though the match ended in chaos after the two teams were deadlocked at the final whistle,” said the Rhuu.
In the meantime, some of the Reds’ old guards were starting to get a bit long in the tooth resulting in enforced positional changes within the playing personnel.
Rhuu was obliged to vacate his position as forward to succeed retiring club legend Cleophas Siseva Siririka, aka “Danger” in the second last line of defence, a position he acquitted himself elegantly until his retirement in 1973.
“Unfortunately, the game of football was evolving with organised structures on the horizon encouraging hordes of gifted youngsters starting to knock on the door for starting berths in the first team.
“As a result, our departure effectively opened the door for new blood leading to the unavoidable arrival of a new generation ushered in by burly midfielder Kaika Kuzee, Smody Kamaheke, Manfred “Bush” Menjengua, Kirrie Tjituaiza, Ben Kauejao, Kaveumbua “Babes” Kangombe, Zeb Tjitemisa and other gifted young footballers all coming on board – leaving the pair of veteran fullbacks Mike Pack and Amos Tjombe the only survivors from the old guards.”
Rhuu says he has no regrets about his sometime thorny journey on the football pitch and still harbours great memories of his countless battles with Katutura giants Black Africa.
“Black Africa was a problematic opponent because they had the most accomplished player in the business in the shape of Albert Louw. Look, that boy was a football genius he was doubtlessly the spine of the team.
“There were also some great footballers such as the sweet left footed boy from Tsumeb, Timotheus Mwetuyela and of course, my former teammate Danger Siririka. To be honest, Times was a marvel to watch, great athlete with phenomenal balance on the ball and could shoot from any angle at full speed whilst he was a damn good dribbler, but Louw was a cut above the rest, the boy was abundantly blessed with a football brain second to none.”