The word “phenomenal’ will be consumed as an understatement if one has to describe or rather present the honest and painful insight about the near faultless life journey of former Dobra, Orlando Pirates and South West Africa (SWA) Invitational Blacks Eleven’s inspirational skipper, one Steve Stephanus.
“Mr. Hanckerchef”, as bro “Stevie” was affectionately known amongst his thousands of adoring football fans, has won almost everything there was to be won in the domestic football, Inter Provincial level and could possible go in history as the most decorated footballer to have ever walked the Namibian soil.
As fate would have it, the retired handsome footballer has taken a bow from the game of life aged 71. The former Orlando Pirates FC blue-eyed-boy died of suspected heart attack in his adopted hometown Mariental, Hardap Region a week ago.
Having been a great fan of the departed defender, the author was not expecting to be tasked with the duty of inking Stevie’s obituary, so early in his otherwise perfect life.
A true legend of the soil, Stevie or “Mr. Cool” was kindhearted, open, honest, intelligent, equally loved by friend and foe, indeed a very interesting personality in all aspects of life.
Carlos “CK” Kambaekwa
WINDHOEK – By far the most influential footballer in the history of domestic football, Steve Stephanus, was an icon in the real sense of the word, as can be attested by the sizable accolades stocked in his well decorated trophy cupboard.
History will reveal that Stevie was the very first Secretary-General (SG) of the newly formed Namibia Football Association (NFA) when Namibia gained her democracy in 1990.
He was the first captain to collect provincial silverware when the SWA blacks amateur football team won the South African Inter Provincial Impala Cup at the jam packed Orlando stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg in 1974. His near faultless display in that particular tourney saw the adorable spectacled boy from Karasburg rewarded with an invitation for a trail with Soweto giants Orlando Pirates alongside teammate Doc Hardley while the pair of Oscar Mengo and Pius Eigowab went into the opposite direction joining Kaizer Chiefs, where they teamed up with compatriots Hermann “Pele” Blaschke and Ismael “Lemmy Special” Narib.
Unfortunately, a combination of homesickness and other complications hastened his quick retreat to his native land after a short stint. Nevertheless, Stevie wore the captain’s armband when the hardcore Apartheid authorities relaxed the laws to allow darkies mingling freely with their “supposedly superior” compatriots to share the same football pitch.
The Blacks were pitted against their white counterparts in an exhibition football match at a packed to rafters Suidwes rugby stadium, south of Namibia’s commercial capital Windhoek in 1976.
Although the skillful blacks lost the tie 2-1 against the technically more advanced larneys - the township boys gifted their affluent opponents few free lessons about the finer points of the game and could have drawn the tie had Oscar Mengo’s poorly taken penalty kick not been expertly gathered by the late Vic Lovell.
Nonetheless, that particular match led to the unavoidable amalgamation of multiracial football in Apartheid SWA in 1977. The first such match was played a year before at the same venue, ending in a six goal thriller (3-3) a result that left the blacks fuming with anger.
The whites were awarded a highly disputed thrice taken spot kick with virtually the last kick of the match – much to the chagrin of the large army of the agitated black crowd.
Stevie got some consolation when he skippered Orlando Pirates to victory in the 2nd edition of the annual National Football League Mainstay Knockout Cup in 1979. Pirates defeated bitter rivals Black Africa 1-0 via Eric Muinjo’s lone strike.
He went onto win several domestic knockout cup competitions with the Ghosts before a niggling career ending knee injuries abbreviated his otherwise flourishing football career, which started way back at St. Josephs’ Secondary School (Dobra) holed up north-east of Windhoek.
Your modern day Virgil van Dijk central defender, Stevie defied tradition by joining forces with the Buccaneers instead of Black Africa where the majority of pupils from the Catholic School plied their trade.
“I made it my sole beat to change the misplaced mindset that Pirates was just an institution of an unruly bunch of athletes, lacking the core values of decency and discipline,” said Stevie during an exclusive interview with New Era Sport a couple of years ago before his untimely death. Unlike many defenders of his generation, Stevie has never received marching orders nor a single caution from the men in black during his entire football career. Off the pitch, there was another side to the soft spoken gentleman.
A silent political activist, Stevie would place his life in danger by transporting militant young activists to the border in their pursuit to escape the persistent evils of apartheid, including the much despised Bantu education system, back in the day.
He would also team up with streetwise local business mogul, the late Uncle Willibard Tlhabanello, smuggling stash of hard cash from neighbouring Botswana into SWA for the ruling party Swapo, prior to Namibia’s Independence.
Stevie also kept an eagle eye over the safety of Swapo stalwarts, the then just released trident of former Robben Island prisoners, John Pandeni, Peter Iilonga and Willem Biwa, undercover at the latter mother’s residence in Gibeon. Steve will be laid to rest in Mariental on Saturday, 20th July 2019.
Orlando Pirates Football Club have announced that it will hold a memorial service for their departed former captain next Tuesday 15 July 18h30 at the ELCRN Tanidare Parish in Soweto, Windhoek.
Meanwhile, messages of condolences continue to pour in from former teammates and opposition alike; “a great guy…shame man…. what a pity I remember him fondly” (Bobby Craddock) “I’m still struggling to come to terms with my former senior’s sudden passing” (Albert Tjihero) “what a true gentleman…may his soul rest in peace” (Hasso Ahrens) I’m at loss for words…he was my captain from school…. up to provincial level” (Max Johnson).