The history of Namibian football will be incomplete if the name of former Windhoek City and South West Africa (SWA) giant goalie Vic Lovell is omitted.
The big-framed net-guard arrived in SWA (Namibia) in the mid-70’s from the Mother City to join forces with the country’s sole representative in the South African National Football Federation (NFL) semi-professional second-tier league.
Having played professional football for Cape Town City in the national topflight division one league, Vic arrived in SWA amidst much fanfare, almost at the same time as other high-profile pro footies, marshalled by Ian Buchanan, Peter Rath, Ian Wood, Ziggy Anderson and Wolfgang Fleischhammel to bolster an already star-studded City squad.
Big Vic would go on to represent his adopted land with flying colours at provincial level, and will be best remembered for the great moment during the second leg of the historic two-legged exhibition match in 1976 between the SWA All Blacks against their White counterparts.
The football bonanza was staged at the packed-to-the-rafters Suidwes stadium (to be renamed Hage Geingob stadium) after Namibia’s democracy in 1990. Big Vic effortlessly gathered Oscar Mengo’s weakly dispatched spot kick with the score ending 2-1 in favour of the whities.
Speedy attacker Edwarth ‘Boy-Boy’ Ndjadila, then a pupil at the Augustineum Secondary School and a second-half substitute, opened the scoring for the blacks before a goal apiece from Wolfgang Fleishhammel and Paul Carstens settled the tie in favour of the all-whites.
The whites emerged 2-1 victors after the first leg ended in a controversial 3-all stalemate the previous year. Regrettably, the likeable socialite died in Windhoek, aged 49, after a short illness.
New Era Sport pays a dignified tribute to a man who had committed his life to the welfare and overall development of Namibian football, not only as amongst the best shot- stoppers blessed with a safe pair of hands in the history of domestic football, but an astute football administrator, top coach and no-nonsense referee.
Big Vic never hesitated to apply the rules accordingly.
May his gentle soul continue to rest in power.
Born Victor Lovell in Cape Town, South Africa on 24 February 1943, the big-framed lad began his football career with amateur outfit St Agnes in his native city at a very young age before he was snapped up by professional outfit Cape Town City in the club’s second year of campaigning in the highly competitive NFL in 1963.
In no time, the agile goalie shot to fame when he made the number one jersey his own property, and was the club’s first choice for many years. Vic would go on to represent the club in many cup finals, and was hailed as one of the finest goalkeepers of his generation.
Former manager at Cape Town City, Frank Lord, described Big Vic as a lovely chap and top goalkeeper who represented the club with distinction during his time at the club. “I brought out a few goalkeepers from abroad to succeed Vic, but this only seemed to motivate him more as he put in better performances week in and week out to keep them at bay. Big Vic was undoubtedly a great credit to football,” he added.
Big Vic was stationed between the sticks when City were runners-up in the prestigious UTC Bowl final against Durban City, and also kept goal when City finished second on the log standings behind Highlands Park in 1965.
These achievements were tailed by other high-profile accolades in the following sequence: Castle Cup runners-up 1969, Castle Cup champions, Coca Cola Shield and BP League runners-up 1970, Castle Cup and Life Bowl champions, BP League, Sanlam Champ of Champions runners-up 1971, Sanlam Champ of Champions winners 1972, BP League and BP Cup champions 1973, and Sanlam Champ of Champions gold medallists 1974.
The multi talented Big Vic also excelled in cricket, and played softball for Western Province before he relocated to SWA (Namibia) in 1975. Having achieved almost everything there was to be won with City, it was time for a new challenge, and when ambitious NFL second-tier side Windhoek City came dangling a juicy carrot in his baby face, Big Vic grabbed the chance with both hands, and boarded the next available two-hour flight to the city of bright lights (Windhoek). And as they say, the rest is history.
His arrival in Namibia’s commercial capital coincided with the unavoidable influx of other highly gifted footballers from South Africa. Big Vic immediately announced himself as a valuable squad member, dislodging Paul Ludick, who had been recruited to succeed the departed Richard Wagner. After a couple of near-faultless displays between the sticks, Big Vic was rewarded with the plum role of player-coach, taking over the coaching duties from teammate Ian Buchanan.
In 1976, Big Vic was duly selected to represent his adopted land in the prestigious annual South African Inter-Provincial Currie Cup tournament. He was also given the nod when the South West Africa all-whites confronted their black counterparts in the second of a two-legged historical first-ever sporting gathering between mixed race athletes.
With racial supremacy at stake, Big Vic was the hero of that closely contested clash of the titans when the all-whites narrowly defeated their black counterparts 2-1 at the Suidwes Station. The giant goalie gallantly saved a decisive penalty from the usually trusted boot of Oscar Mengo.
The latter had just returned from a spell with South African professional outfit Kaizer Chiefs, and his last-minute inclusion in the starting lineup almost caused a furore about his hastily acquired amateur status.
Surprisingly, the pair of exhibition matches would ultimately pave the way for the inevitable introduction of multi racial football in Apartheid South West Africa in 1977. It also signalled the end of Windhoek City. A significant chunk of their players joined the newly-formed but short-lived City United under the stewardship of local football guru Bobby Sissing and Vic Lovell.
In the meantime, Big Vic was installed as head coach of the SWA Currie cup team for a considerable period, and was at the helm of the all-conquering SWA Currie Cup team of 1981, considered by many as the best ever side to represent the nation at the August tournament.
Starting to get a bit long in the tooth, ultimately developing wobbling legs, Big Vic was nonetheless determined to stay relevant in the game he loved so much. He turned his hand into coaching, amongst others mentoring big clubs like Katutura giants Tigers, and superbly masterminded the Donkerhoek outfit’s rise to stardom as ‘Ingwe’ started to play attractive one-touch football.... much to the delight of the neutral football fan.
In between the shackles, Big Vic, a regular figure at horse racing betting houses, would also double up as match referee, and easily ranked amongst the best whistleblowers in the business until his untimely death in 1992.
Bro Vic, you might be gone to be reunited with your ancestors, but your legacy and overall contribution towards the growth of Namibian football will never be forgotten. It will be cherished for many more years to come. Namibia salutes this great son of the soil, posthumously. May your gentle