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Home / Up close with the unsung Blue Bird Heinrich Mandume ‘Eusebio’ Kandjai

Up close with the unsung Blue Bird Heinrich Mandume ‘Eusebio’ Kandjai

2021-08-20  Carlos Kambaekwa

Up close with the unsung Blue Bird Heinrich Mandume ‘Eusebio’ Kandjai
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Former Blue Boys, Atlanta Chiefs, Blue Waters Football Club and South West Africa (SWA) star striker-cum-defender Heinrich Mandume Kandjai, famously known as ‘Eusebio’ after the legendary Mozambican-born Portugal legend Eusebio Da Silva Ferreira, reminisces about his heydays as a much- feared goal poacher and hard-tackling no-nonsense centre-back. He was amongst a few senior squad members when the Birds, as Blue Waters are affectionately known, underwent a major squad overhaul that saw a significant number of highly-gifted youngsters thrown into the deep end of the giant Atlantic Ocean. A born leader on and off the field, Eusebio was entrusted to lead the Blue Army from the back during a rollercoaster career with the exciting Kuisebmond outfit. He was one of the very few players commuting the 30-km stretch between his hometown Swakopmund and Walvis Bay for training sessions, following in the footsteps of another football legend from Mondesa, the late great Ruben ‘Ruby’ Kamulu. May his soul continue to rest in power. 

 

Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekua 

 

Although he started his flourishing football career with Mondesa outfits Blue Boys and Atlanta Chiefs in his hometown Swakopmund, it was indeed at Blue Waters where Eusebio made his mark. He rose to prominence when he was selected for the South West Africa (SWA) multi-racial side that competed in the now-defunct annual South African Inter-Provincial Currie Cup tournament in East London, South Africa in 1982.  

Born as Heinrich Mandume Kandjai at the north-central town of Otjiwarongo on the 1st of March 1954, Eusebio grew up in Swakopmund after his parents relocated to the coastal town in search of greener pastures. Like many young boys his age at the time, he started chasing an inflated piece of leather in the salty surface streets of Mondesa with youthful outfit Brazil FC. 

Some of his celebrated teammates were the Johnson brothers Chris and Da Silva, trial-awaiting former Fisheries minister Bernard Esau, Edward Kapuka and former Dead Wood pop band vocalist Tommy Nuumbala.

Upon completing his primary school at Goas, Eusebio resurfaced at Dobra (St Joseph’s Secondary School) to further his education at the revered unofficial school of excellence. He joined a hostel team going by the name of London City, famously known as the ‘Zodas’.

During school holidays, he would turn out for both Mondesa outfits Blue Boys and Atlanta Chiefs in the various popular coastal knockout cup tournaments. A prolific goalscorer, Eusebio also made it in the school’s second strings, playing there for two years before he was promoted to the school’s first team. 

He found himself in the good company of established footies in the shape of player/coach Meester Willem Hans, George Martin, Alex ‘Kanjungu Koura’ Kapenaina, Max ‘Zoda 5’ Johnson, Stouter Ochurub and towering shot-stopper Ephraim ‘Katjimbungu’ Riruako.

Once and always a sea-sider, Eusebio could no longer resist the smell of the giant Atlantic Ocean, and returned home after leaving school to be reunited with boyhood team Blue Boys. 

“I actually played for both Atlanta Chiefs and Blue Boys simultaneously because back in the day, there were no proper leagues structures or registration of players, thus allowing players to move freely between their chosen clubs,” recalls Eusebio.

As fate would have it, his gorgeous sweetheart Elizabeth was living in Walvis Bay, and Eusebio was obliged by the influence of love to spent most of his precious time in the harbour town. Though a bit reluctant to admit, his ‘Mamieta’ played a hand in his decision to join Blue Waters FC.

His arrival at the Birds’ nest coincided with the team’s transformation as he was duly converted to a defender in a steady backline that included veteran centre-back Ranga Lucas, Jerry Shikongo, Frans ‘Dampie’ Mupupa and the young energetic overlapping fullback, the late Britho Shipanga. 

His near-faultless displays for the Beautiful Birds caught the eyes of the national selectors, as he was deservedly included in the star-studded South West Africa (SWA) Currie Cup team in 1982. 

Having won almost all available silverware there was to be won, Eusebio retired from the game whilst still at the pinnacle of his flawless football career aged 35. He cites Chelsea as his toughest opponents, adding that the Omulunga outfit were in a class of their own. 

“They (Chelsea) had a very well-balanced team, and the likes of Orlando Damaseb, the Francis brothers Erich and Tiger, were lethal in front of goal. I also hated playing against Orlando Pirates’ stocky forward Jordan Afrikaner, as he was quite a handful”. 

Eusebio was in the starting line-up when ‘Omeya’ defeated Chelsea 3-1 in a knockout cup final in Windhoek. The now retired stocky forward-cum-defender rates his former teammate Phello Muatunga as his most favourite footballer during his playing days. 

After retirement from competitive football, Eusebio rejoined Blue Boys FC as part-time squad member, and also featured for the Swakopmund Old Boys in the popular Coastal Social Football League. 

A proud father, Eusebio is happily married to his long-time sweetheart Elizabeth Kandjai, and has been blessed with a number of children. 

The easy-going brother now lives happily in his adopted town Swakopmund, having officially retired from his employment at local beer manufacturers Hansa Breweries. 


2021-08-20  Carlos Kambaekwa

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