Death has no shame. The country has been plunged into mourning, following the shock passing of one of the most colourful sports personalities in the shape of former Orlando Pirates Football Club and South West Africa (SWA) agile shot stopper, Japhet Shapama Hellao, famously known as ‘Bump Jive’ in football circles.
The retired bulky net guard has taken a bow from the game of life after losing a fierce battle against the devastating Covid-19 related complications at a state hospital in Windhoek last week, aged 69. Shapama will be best remembered as the ever-present immaculately-attired flamboyant night club honcho of the popular Katutura Guest House during the height of Apartheid.
A shrewd businessman, the usually outspoken grey-bearded socialite also tried his hand in gas trading, and was the sole owner of the Miami Petrol Service Station in Soweto, which he ran parallel with the night club.
Apart from his unquestionable business acumen, the huge-framed socialite was a mean athlete during his younger days as a pupil at the Augustineum Secondary School. However, he only rose to prominence when he almost singlehandedly spearheaded the star-studded SWA Blacks Invitational side to victory in the South African Inter-Provincial Impala Cup in Johannesburg in 1974.
A seasider, the streetwise Bro Japh arrived in the city of bright lights (Windhoek) from Walvis Bay, via his hometown Swakopmund, to further his academic aspirations. Nonetheless, it did not take him long to cement his place between the sticks in the school’s star-studded first football team.
Amongst his celebrated teammates were Micah ‘Capro’ Ngapurue, Asser Mbai, Lazarus Shikwambi, Pwiro Angula, Bush Menjengua, Johnny Veiko, Frikkie Plaatjies, Kaika Kuzee, Tommy Kaimbi, Michael Pienaar, Safe Kuruseb and Daniel Bantam.
Augustineum were amongst the finest football playing teams in the business, competing fiercely in the hotly-contested domestic knockout cup competitions, to the extent that their only genuine rivals were fellow scholars, St Joseph’s Secondary School (Dobra).
As fate would have it, Katutura giants Orlando Pirates FC found themselves in short supply in the goalkeeping department. Both trusted first-choice net guards, Abel Nero and Jeremiah ‘Daggas’ Hochobeb, found themselves at the wrong end of the football law-enforcers’ crime sheet.
The pair, who have since both gone the way of all flesh, took the law into their own hands as they thoroughly “bliksemed” the daylights out of an unsuspected match official, obliging the fed-up football administrators under the stewardship of the late Simon Sisingi Hiskia to come down hard on them with a life ban from all football-related activities.
Pienaar, Japhet’s fellow pupil, managed to convince his buddy to join forces with the ‘Ghosts’, and as they say, the rest is history. In no time, the stocky shot-stopper endeared himself into the hearts and souls of the usually hard-to-please Pirates’ supporters.
With the agile Bro Japh firmly stationed between the sticks, the Buccaneers became a major force to be reckoned with, winning several knockout cup tournaments hands down countrywide.
Needless to note, the fearless and overly confident net guard was by a decent mile the best shot-stopper of his generation, and easily ranks amongst the top five goalkeepers to have ever played the game on Namibian soil, alongside Samuel ‘Bonetti’ Niilenge, Klaus Hubner, Ndjiva Kauami and Ronnie Kanalelo.
A kind-hearted man of substance, the multi-lingual Bro Japh had done a lot of good for the overall growth of domestic football, as can be attested by his hands-on involvement with youthful Katutura outfit Sorento Bucks. He singlehandedly turned the previously unfashionable outfit into world-beaters.
Once a Pirate, always a Buccaneer. Even though he finished his remarkable playing career with low-key Swallows FC, defectors from Pirates, Bro Japh, always had a soft spot for his beloved ‘Ghosts’, always making damn sure that he kept a close bond with former teammates like Ou Kill Kamberipa, Alu Hummel, Lemmy Narib, the late pair of Steve Stephanus and Erich Muinjo, Ananias ‘Bigman’ Nanuseb, and a few others.
His untimely death follows short on the heels of prominent local football personalities who have succumbed to the deadly Coronavirus: Muinjo, Juku Tjazuko, Bizzo Ganinab, Charles Ngozu, Shoeshine Kambanda, Pieces Damaseb, Alex Kapenaina and Molaiks Murirua. May their souls rest in eternal peace, in one piece.
Japhet was the first designated team manager of the Brave Warriors upon Namibia’s democracy in 1990, and has certainly served his native land with distinction. The history of Namibian football will be incomplete if his name is not printed in the golden pages of our national archives.
It’s a great pity that you are unable to share the ‘Untold History of Namibian Football’ in my soon to be launched institutional memory of Namibian football that you were anxiously looking forward to treasure.
My friend, you came, conquered and certainly left a long-lasting mark in the annals of a society you selflessly served on many fronts. Go well, and may your gentle soul rest easy. He will be laid to rest at his adopted city, Windhoek, on the 12th of this month.