Historic start to multiracial soccer revisited
WINDHOEK – Unknown to many during the height of apartheid, a harmless looking friendly football match was to finally change the mindset of the just over one million inhabitants of what was then called South West Africa, including the colonial rulers of the day, apartheid South Africa.
It took a pair of 22 footballers and 180 minutes to convince authorities that blacks and whites have a lot in common and could live together in peace and harmony. When the quartet of Japhet ‘Stone’ Hoeseb, Willem Hans, Oscar Norich and the late football guru Simon ‘Sisingi’ Hiskia, mooted the idea of pitting a lily white football invitation side against their black counterparts – it presented an ideal opportunity for both parties to demonstrate reconciliation by way of the beautiful game. Local authorities kept thousands of football followers across the colour line waiting with bated breath as they had reservations about sanctioning such a match thinking that such a gathering would provoke racial tensions. After some heated deliberations and diplomatic lobbying the historical match was finally given the thumps up and the stage for the encounter was set at the Suidwes Stadium, today rechristened the Hage Geingob Stadium.
While the whites were playing to prove racial superiority, their opponents were competing for pride and equal rights seeking to end racial discrimination through the beautiful game. A pair of quicksilver strikes by Chief Santos sharpshooter Celle Auchumeb set the Black XI on course for a historic victory until the referee (who happened to be white) awarded a hotly disputed penalty to his pale-skinned kin in the dying minutes of an otherwise entertaining match. Goalkeeper Bonnettie Nilenge, saved the penalty kick, but the referee ordered a retake claiming that the Blue Waters shot-stopper had moved before the penalty was taken and when the penalty-taker missed the target on his second attempt, another retake was ordered for reasons only known to the man in black.
His 3rd attempt was successful and the tie ended in a 3-all stalemate although the blacks had certainly made their mark and the larneys took serious note – leading to the inevitable evolution of multiracial football in 1977. Now 37-years down the line, the same bunch of footballers will unpack their dusty togs to return to action as they take those who missed this historic event down memory lane with an exhibition match slated for the Ramblers Stadium this coming Saturday. With all of them at a fairly advanced age, they might not possesses the same pace and shooting prowess of yesteryear, but the likes of Ivo de Gouveia, Steve Stephanus, Sammy Alfheim, Ranga Lucas, Oscar Mengo, Don Corbett, Celle Auchumeb, Ronny Dagnin, Brazello Haoseb, Hasso Ahrens, Albert Tjihero, Nerab Gariseb, Willy Rwida, Ambrossius Vyff and Bigman Nanuseb could still display that elusive Midas Touch that had fans glued to the edge of their seats during their heyday in local football.
By Carlos Kambaekwa