The Namibian football family yesterday woke up to the sad news about the sad passing of former Orlando Pirates attacker Eric Muinjo, who died at the age of 64 in a Windhoek hospital from Covid-related complications.
The retired footballer is reported to have been unwell upon his return from vacation at the popular holiday coastal town of Swakopmund last month.
News of his passing was confirmed by his younger brother Phillip Muinjo.
Muinjo was amongst the first fully-fledged qualified football coaches in the country, having been mentored in Germany.
A protege of the revered Ella du Plessis Secondary School in Khomasdal, Muinjo started his flawless football career with boyhood team Orlando Pirates and was the first youngster to be promoted to the first team in the mid-1970s.
He will be best remembered for his match-winning goal against arch-rivals Black Africa in the hotly contested final of the now-defunct Mainstay Cup in 1978, the precursor to the much sought-after Namibia Football Association (NFA) Cup.
He was also part of the Ghosts side that successfully defended the coveted Mainstay trophy against cross-town opponents Sport Klub Windhoek (SKW) only to be denied victory via the green table.
The Doc Hardley-inspired Buccaneers were stripped off the title after arriving 45 minutes for the scheduled kick-off at the just-completed Windhoek’s stadium in 1979. Pirates won the tie 5-3 after extra time following a three-all stalemate in regulation time. In 1981, Muinjo sent shockwaves amongst the Pirates faithful when he abandoned the Buccaneers ship to join forces with ambitious Pionierpark outfit Ramblers FC. The switch was met with disdain and there were mixed feelings by some of the Ramblers conservative members who were not exactly keen on welcoming let alone accommodating athletes of colour to their sacred paradise.
He re-wrote history by becoming the first player from the black township to find shelter with a predominantly white club alongside Khomasdal resident Bertus Damon.
The pair tour West Germany with their new club for several exhibition matches in 1983. However, his whirlwind romance with the Tunschell Street boys ended abruptly when the prodigal son returned to parent club Pirates in 1985.
He continued from where he left off and won several high-profile tournaments with his childhood team under a new portfolio of player/coach. A bird of passage, the versatile forward rejoined Ramblers for his second spell in 1988 where he was installed as player/coach.
Muinjo will go down in history amongst very few footballers of his generation to have represented their motherland in the now-defunct annual South African Inter-Province Currie Cup tournament under two different associations, the Central Football Association (CFA) Amateur Soccer League (ASA) in 1982 and 1989, respectively. The Sparta United pair of Ivo de Gouveia, Don Renzke, also achieved the same feat. Messages of condolences poured in yesterday from the Ramblers Old Boys who showered their former teammates with praises.
“So sad to hear this devastating news about Eric. I’ve very fond memories of Eric, we worked together at Cymot, playing alongside each other at Ramblers. He was such a fantastic left-footed attacking midfielder with lots of skill, we went to Germany on that unforgettable tour organised by Manuel Coelho in 1983. RIP buddy,” said Bobby Craddock.
“Very sad to hear that Eric passed away, he was very talented and skilful and above, all a very nice personality, RIP Eric,” added Ian Wood.
“Remember him as a long-serving stalwart of Orlando Pirates, my condolences to his family,” said Hasso Ahrens.
“No man, this is getting out of hand...RIP Eric,” Andy Alfheim added. Muinjo leaves behind his beautiful wife Irene Gowases-Muinjo and two sons and Eric Junior Oswald.
A comprehensive obituary about the life and amazing football journey of Muinjo will be published in our Friday’s edition under Tales of the Legends.