Death has struck again as the country mourns the tragic double death of former Orlando Pirates stalwart Erich Muinjo and Robber Chanties Football Club’s tough-as-steak defender Bizzo Kaninab, who both succumbed to the devastating Covid-19 epidemic. Erich will go down in history as the man who unintentionally changed the landscape of domestic football when he left boyhood team Orlando Pirates to join Ramblers, a predominantly white team in 1981. However, his arrival at the ambitious Pionierspark outfit was met with mixed feelings, splitting the management in two groups. Conservative club members were not in favour of welcoming athletes of colour to their sacred nest and wanted to keep the club exclusively white.
However, the quartet of Siggie Frewer, Manuel Coelho, Andy Alfheim and Bobby Craddock dug their heels in the sand and stood their ground, ultimately winning the battle to open the door for the club to become the first-ever white sporting entity in then Apartheid South West Africa to incorporate athletes of colour into their stable. Erich went on to make history by becoming the first fully-fledged qualified football coach to obtain an A-License in Germany upon the dawn of Namibia’s democracy in 1990. He rose to prominence when his solitary goal earned Orlando Pirates a hard fought 1-0 victory over bitter rivals Black Africa in the final of the second edition of the coveted Mainstay Cup at the packed-to-the-rafters Katutura stadium 1978. In today’s edition of your favourite weekly sport feature, Tales of the Legends, which chronicles our sport heroes and heroines present and posthumously, New Era Sport also pays tribute to another Ghosts legend Bizzo Kaninab, who has also joined his ancestors in heaven. May their souls rest easy collectively.
Born in Windhoek on the 27th of June 1956 to football icon Wherrick “Uerivara” Zimmer-Goreseb and Idah Muinjo-Hoebes, it was only logical that young Erich would become a noted “footie”. After all, his old man was arguably the finest striker of his generation and up to this day the author is yet to witness any local player to match or come anywhere near the goal-scoring prowess of Uncle Wherrick, apart from the boy from Tsumeb with a delicious left foot, Times Mwetuyela.
Like many other young kids of well-to-do parents, young Erich was fittingly enrolled at the St Andrew’s Primary School, a springboard to the revered Ellah Du Plessis High, holed up in the Coloured/Baster community upmarket residential area Khomasdal.
Some of his celebrated teammates in the school football team were Julius Hageddorn, Stakes Coetzee (capt), Paka Claassen, Erich Scheiffer, Ivan Brown, Clement Kloppers, Thomas Gates, Capes Nel, Chris Claasen and Dawid Ockhuis. Erich assumed the portfolio of vice-captain.
He joined Katutura giants Orlando Pirates at a very young age and unlike many of his peers who got stuck in the team’s second strings, Erich was elevated to the Ghosts’ first team during the Ghosts’ transformation period, which coincided with the inevitable retirement of club stalwarts Daniel Koopman, Willem Eichab, John Awarab, Gustav Bassieman Jimmy-Naruseb, Izaak Gariseb, Matheus Namaseb and the bulk of the all-conquering Pirates squad.
He was lucky to be mentored by greats such as Lemmy Narib, Ou Pine Pienaar, Doc Hardley, Steve Stephanus, Alu Hummel, Ambrossius Vyff, Dokes Hange, Killer Kamberipa, Japhet Hellao and a few others. Erich will be best remembered for his breathtaking match-winning goal against bitter rivals Black Africa in the final of the Mainstay Cup in 1978, which made him an overnight cult hero.
He went on to enjoy unsurpassed success with the Buccaneers and will go down in history as one of the Ghosts’ greatest players of all time. Erich sent shockwaves amongst the Ghosts’ faithful when he abandoned the Buccaneers smooth-sailing ship in 1981, crossing the colour line by joining forces with Ramblers FC ... much to the chagrin of the Ghosts’ faithful. He endeared himself in the hearts of the usually hard to please Rammies’ followers with near faultless performances week in and week out for the Tunschell Street boys.
The prodigal son made a surprise return when he rejoined boyhood team Pirates to continue from where he had left off. After clinching all available silverware there was to be won as player/coach, Erich was rewarded with a call-up to the South West Africa (SWA) Team for the annual South African Inter-Provincial Currie Cup tournament and also represented the star-studded breakaway Namibia Super Soccer League (NSSL) Invitational Eleven.
He returned to Ramblers for his second spell in 1988. Erich was installed as player/coach and lifted the Tunschell Street boys to greater heights when Ramblers saw off eternal enemies SKW on penalties in the final of the annual Stoezel Pokal at the latter’s stadium. He also mentored the national Olympic team.
Sadly, the likeable light-skinned socialite lost a brave battle against the devastating coronavirus at the Medicity Private Health Care establishment in Windhoek on Tuesday. He is survived by his lifelong spouse Irene and a pair of sons Erich Jnr and Oswald. May his soul rest easy.
“A gentleman and a mensch I had childhood adolescence and adulthood with for close to forty years. His dad, a former footballer of note and in later years a municipal bus driver, was re-baptized ‘Uerivara’ because of his dignified demeanour, RIP my dear Bro,” writes Erich’s old buddy Vero Mbahuurua.
In Loving Memory of the Khorixas ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ Abuti ‘Bizzo’ Kaninab
New Era Sport also pays tribute to another football legend former Robber Chanties FC reliable defender Dietrich “Bizzo” KanInab, who also enjoyed a successful short stint with the Buccaneers. Coincidently, the strongly tough-tackling defender also exited the game of life via the same route as his former Ghosts’ teammate Erich Muinjo: Covid-19 complications.
Back in the day, the Herbert Conradie stadium, holed up on the edges of Khorixas, in the Kunene region was a very difficult place to enter. Visiting teams would dread honouring league fixtures in the dry semi-desert village town. Hosts Robber Chanties were a tricky customer to deal with and the word ‘DEFEAT’ was not inserted in their vocabulary. Visiting teams would be subjected to some kind of unbearable un-cool hospitality, ranging from biased refereeing, intimidation and threats of physical bodily harm.
Nonetheless, Chanties could also play a bit of decent football as the team was laden with very good players in their line-up. And whilst the terrible twins Paul and Peter Haosemab spearheaded the attack with a great measure of virtuosity, Chanties boasted a solid defence, well marshalled by sturdy defender Bizzo Kaninab. Despite playing for an unfashionable team from a village town, Bro B will go down in history as one of the greatest centre backs of his generation. May his soul rest in peace in one piece.