• July 17th, 2019
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Up close with Zico, the footballer-cum-entrepreneur

He has been there, seen it all – former Blue Waters Football Club and Brave Warriors lanky agile shot-stopper Abisai Paulus Shiningayamwe, aka Zico, is a man on a serious mission.

And while a significant chunk of footballers from his generation are wandering around aimlessly upon their unavoidable retirement from the game, pondering where their next meal is going to come from – Zico is the epitome of humbleness punctuated by sheer perseverance and hard work.

Being a professional athlete has never gone to his head as the baby-face Walvis Bay-born lad has kept his feet firmly on the ground.

Zico started his football career at ambitious low-key outfit Super Stars FC in 1999 as a 14-year-old but as fate would have it – he got his big break the very same year when Blue Waters’ charismatic chairman Hendrik ‘Hennie’ Dawids lured him to the Birds’ nest.

The beanpole goalie made his debut in topflight football in the maiden edition of the MTC 8-A-side tourney on home soil at Kuisebmond, Walvis Bay.

Both the club’s first choice keepers were nowhere to be found – leaving Zico to be thrown into the lion’s den at the eleventh hour.

After a few cameo roles between the sticks, Zico developed itchy feet and surfaced at bitter rivals Eleven Arrows for a brief stint before moving to the city of lights in search of pastures green.

He joined the Mighty Civilians in a move facilitated by homeboy and fellow goalie Sparks Gottlieb and Woody Jacobs.
Zico went on to win the coveted league title and subsequently played in the CAF Champions League, where Civics got knocked out in the second round by continental powerhouse Asec Mimosas. 

In 2003, the acrobatic net guard joined forces with local coach Ali Akan at South African second tier club City Pillars in Tzaneen.

Whilst at Pillars, Tzaneen local municipality organized a four-team tourney featuring Jomo Cosmos, City Pillars and two other local teams. 

This was to pave the way for the Namibian, as Cosmos boss, Jomo Sono, aka Bro J, a man with a sharp eye for raw talent, had spotted him.

“Bro J was very impressed with my performances at the tourney – he immediately enquired about my availability through his long-time buddy Colin April, Namibia’s leading football agent. 

“Joining Cosmos was like manna sent from heaven because under the shrewd mentorship of Bra J, life wasn’t as easy as it normally is at most professional clubs in South Africa.

“At Cosmos, it was not only about football, it was about life values – and having Bra J as a coach, friend, father figure and life skills mentor around was a blessing, 

 “He taught and prepared me for life outside football and while still playing for Cosmos my business venture started selling stainless steel pots imported from Sweden and electronic gadgets through my good buddy Mojalefa Tsotsetsi.
“In 2012, Colin April came to Jozi and happened to pay us a visit at Cosmos, where Bra J jokingly told him: ‘Your player is now a pot trader, maybe I should just sell him to other clubs.’

“Nonetheless, it was the very same Bra J who extended my employment contract for a further two years on my running contract till 2014.”

Sadly the team got relegated in 2013, and Zico then pleaded with Bra J to be released because he desperately wanted to return home to pursue his business aspirations, but without hesitation Bro J gifted him his full blessings, though it was not easy for him to let the long-serving goalie go since the pair had become very close.

“I remember having a one-on-one talk with him, and his exact words were: ‘That’s fine, you can go but if things are not going the way you planned - you are always welcome to come back home at Cosmos.’ 

“Upon arrival back home, things just fell in place in terms of business – I guess with the blessings of, and keeping constantly in touch with, Bra J, for fatherly advice.” 

Zico was highly motivated to do well and luckily for him, he received great mentorship from local business mogul Johnny ‘JJD’ Doeseb and Cynthia Goreses.

“The latter is now my business partner. Both understand the business dynamics in Namibia very well and really helped to shape my business career. As a retired professional footballer, I will forever be grateful to them. I’m also in regular contact with Bra J. 

“Bro J always encourages me never to give up, reminding me to maintain the same discipline I demonstrated at Cosmos. Well, who knows? I might become richer than him one of these days,” says Zico tongue-in-cheek. 
Zico was capped six times for the Olympic football team and went on to earn 22 caps for the senior national football team, the Brave Warriors. 

He was a member of the Warriors squad during Namibia’s second appearance at the continental showpiece in Ghana, 2008.

New Era Reporter
2019-01-15 10:33:05 6 months ago

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