• September 23rd, 2020
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Ode to the “Indian Blizzard”: Nathaniel Alele Zico Kapule …1969-2020

Life is a journey but death is unavoidable, the author is still battling to come to terms with the sad passing of one of the most complete footballers of his generation, one Nathaniel Alele Kapule, elder son of Katutura big shops popular barber, the late Thomas Mbutu, aka “Tommy Trou”.
Exactly a week ago, I bumped into the former African Blizzards and Tigers FC skill full midfielder Zico, at the memorial service of a close family member. 

Zico led the cultural protocols welcoming mourners and we both almost forgot the Coronavirus required distance as we were very close to exchange hugs because of joy since we had not seen each other in a long time.
I was a bit down and had some difficulties manouvering my way around the place because of severe gout. Eish......bro Zico’s was in his usual mode and instead of offering me comfort, the brother resorted to “gwarra” {tease} me brutally.
Wearing his customary shy smile on his baby face, he jokingly pointed his finger towards the makeshift kitchen on the upper level of his younger brother’s Nathan Peter Mbutu’s posh residence at Plot 36 Brakwater. 
Bro Zico reminded me tongue in cheek to keep a healthy distance from the appetizing gorgeous fragrance of juicy barbeque meat if I was to survive another day in the sun. Little did we know that would be our last conversation.


Regrettably, Zico Alele Kapule might have made just one appearance for the Brave Warriors in an international friendly against tiny Lesotho in Maseru in 1997 – but the departed attacking midfielder should be considered rather unfortunate to have not added to his single cap for the national senior football team.
And of course, that did not stop him from cementing his place in Ingwe’s starting line-up as he pulled the strings in the engine room becoming the darling of the club’s diehards  

Alele was hailed as the natural successor to the departing Dale Stephanus in terms of skill, dribbling and above all, endurance second to none. A phenomenal ball carrier, your typical modern day box-to-box midfielder, Zico was blessed with a breathtaking first touch complemented by accurate passes and amazing vision.
Like many other boys his age, a product of the Donkerhoek residential area in the southern outskirts of Katutura, Zico was born in Windhoek on the 13th of May 1969. He started chasing an inflated piece of leather, kicking old tennis balls in the dusty streets of his neighbourhood.
Nonetheless, he finally got his big break in competitive environment when he was selected to represent his motherland at the prestigious annual South African Inter-Provincial Youth Currie Cup for the South West Africa (SWA) Under 13 football team in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1986.

Zico subsequently rose to prominence after he joined forces with local club African Blizzards FC in the highly competitive Central Football Association (CFA) second tier division. 

“Football was very competitive in those days – it was a great honour for every aspiring young footballer to set your feet at the now revamped ‘Grassy Park’ (Okahozu) nowadays known as Sam Nujoma Stadium,” recalled Zico during an exclusive interview with New Era Sport two years before his untimely departure.

After two solid seasons with the youthful Blizzards, aged 19 and hardly out of his pair of shorts, the attacking midfielder was lured to the Tigers’ cage and unlike many of his peers who started out in the team’s second strings, Zico walked straight into Ingwe’s first team. 
As it turned out, Tigers’ new number 7 endeared himself into the hearts of the club’s usually hard-to-please followers as he bamboozled defenders at will with his zigzagging style of play - leaving bemused defenders for dead before delivering the decisive killer pass to his free-scoring forwards.

With the old guard of evergreen Grey Umati, Abnery Tobias, Silas Nujoma, Sekulu Hipondoka, Scalla Shaanika, Isaac Brown Amwenye, Tommy “Ombuka Joutjie” Schmidt nearing the twilight of their football careers, Tigers embarked on an aggressive rebuilding campaign. 
The exercise resulted in a sizable chunk of gifted young footballers being gradually ushered into the tough and demanding rigours of topflight football. 

Alele would be amongst few youngsters brought in to strengthen the revamped ageing squad together with the late pair of hard tackling fullbacks Bricks Hangula and Tiwi Kaundje as well as prolific net buster Forra Nicodemus. The latter was signed from second tier campaigners Hungry Lions FC. 

In an interview with New Era Sport back in 2018, Kapule then had this to say: “We were somehow very lucky in the sense that some of the experienced squad members were still active. Veterans such as Mentos Hipondoka, George Ochurub, Kumi Umati and Issy Naruseb were still going strong. Uncle Hofney (Grey Umati) was the head coach, assisted by the late Vic Lovell. Back in the day, local footballers made it their sole beat to model their game on their South African and Brazilian idols and would be re-baptized accordingly to fit the bill”.
The most common names that springs to mind are Jomo, Ace, Gazza, Samora, Chippa, Pele, Wire, Jairzinho, Tostao, Garrincha, Teenage, Platini, Maria-Maria, Pule, Banks, Eusebio, Sono, Congo, Scara, The Horse, Bazooka, Kalamazoo, Malombo, Motwa, Molala, Pro, Shakes, Doctor. Wagga. 

So it was only fair that “Alele” would be perfectly re-christened “Zico” by his teammates and his hundreds of adoring fans. The name was derived from the silky Brazilian number 10, Zico.
The cool headed young midfielder did not take long to establish himself as a vital cog in Ingwe’s long overdue march to stardom, bossing the midfield alongside Gerson “Slow “Poison” Gowaseb and Lucky Iyambo. 
He would go on to lay his hands on multiple accolades including the coveted Namibia Football Association (NFA) Cup in addition to the much sought after Metropolitan Trophy.

“The late Vic Lovell brought a new dimension to our style of play. He taught us the basics of playing one-touch football and we somehow managed to combine natural skill with basics,” 
Fortunately, the new arrivals started to gel with the old guard as can be attested by the sudden change of fortunes, winning back-to-back NFA Cups at the expense of Black Africa and bitter rivals Blue Waters in 1996 and 1997, respectively.
Zico was instrumental when Ingwe dispatched the star-studded Nau-Aib (Okahandja) outfit Liverpool FC by a solitary goal (1-0) in a tightly contested final of the popular Metropolitan Cup.
Despite missing out on international football with the senior national team, the Brave Warriors, the skill full playmaker could take some consolation as he proudly represented his country at club level playing for his beloved Ingwe in the Continental CAF Club Cup Winners Competition.

“It was a good learning curve for us playing against old time campaigners from Swaziland, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Conge (DRC) and even though we failed to reach the knockout stages – we learnt quite a lot about the finer points of the game,” reflected Kapule during our 2018 interview.  It’s very rare nowadays to find a midfielder that guarantees you at least 10 goals per season but Zico was in that bracket. Zico regarded former Eleven Arrows and Black Africa Football Club pocket-sized midfield kingpin Bobby “Little Corporal” Samaria as his most difficult opponent during his playing days while Black Africa were the team to beat.  In that interview, the midfielder also touched on his idols, saying: “Without a shadow of doubt, my all-time favourite footballer was the late “Teenage’ Iyambo. That boy was a genius and could do anything with a ball glued to his feet. Sadly, he was taken away from us whilst still at the pinnacle of his blossoming football career – may his soul rest in peace,” concluded the midfield general before joining his idol in heaven.

Carlos Kambaekwa
2020-05-29 09:26:18 3 months ago

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