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Home / Tribute to copper town’s Eslon ‘Don’ Kavindjima 1951 - 2024

Tribute to copper town’s Eslon ‘Don’ Kavindjima 1951 - 2024

2024-03-28  Carlos Kambaekwa

Tribute to copper town’s Eslon ‘Don’ Kavindjima 1951 - 2024

DEATH has shortened the life journey of another beloved athlete, for the umpteenth time in many months.  Former Chief Santos versatile footie, Eslon ‘Don’ Kavindjima, has taken a bow from life after losing a long battle with illness.  Featuring regularly for one of the most exciting outfits in the history of domestic football, Kavindjima has for some inexplicable reason never really managed to lay his hands on any noteworthy silverware during a career that spun almost a decade in the gold-and-green strip of the Copper Town lads.  A true gentleman on and off the field, he was a trusted servant of Santos and never changed clubs like some players of his generation, who hobbled from one club to the other in search of glory and fame. 


Kavindjima started his long and winding football journey with unfashionable Omulunga outfit Poison Arrows from Grootfontein. He sent shock waves among his peers and conservative close relatives when he chose to join Tsumeb-based Chief Santos instead of Red Bees, where the loyalties of most of his clansmen were firmly entrenched.    

He began life on the football pitch in his native town of Grootfontein playing street football in the old location, renamed Omulunga township in later years. The boys played with home-made plastic balls after school or whenever the opportunity arose. 

A notable long-distance runner, his endurance helped him a great deal on the football field, as he was always tasked to shield his teammates from the danger posed by marauding strikers during the popular stake games in the dusty streets of Omulunga where no quarter was asked or given. 

The energetic young player joined forces with his boyhood buddies to form a competitive football club named Poison Arrows. The new team was made up of predominantly Otjiherero-speaking young men under the tutorship of Kazekela Kaverua. 

During the days of segregation, many football clubs were established along ethnic lines, while the boys from the Damara section had more than one team and were very competitive. 

He teamed up with Papikie Uazukuani, Kalla Kuzatjike, Victor Kutako, Sam Tjihuno, Israel Nganjone, Ben Kazonganga, Bethuel Hanavi, Poriro Upingasana and Curtus Tjizepa to form the backbone of Arrows. 

“With tribal pride at stake, we were obligated to compete fiercely against strong teams such as Goal Hunters and Hungry Lions. The team also featured prominently in several exhibition matches and knockout cup tournaments against teams from the "maize triangle" (Tsumeb, Otavi, Grootfontein),” recalled the now late Kavindjima during an exclusive interview with New Era Sport in 2016.

Arrows were also regular campaigners in the annual Chief Hosea Kutako Knockout Cup tourney, exclusively tailored for the Otjiherero-speaking clubs hosted by Otjiwarongo based Life Fighters. 

The gold-and-navy strip outfit always gave a good account of themselves in this competition despite having to play second fiddle to established clubs African Stars, Life Fighters and Flames. Other participants were African Stars (Otavi), Black Beauty Chiefs (Okahandja), Scorpions, African Lions (Omaruru), Red Bees (Tsumeb), Kaondeka Aces (Okakarara) and Sunshine (Gobabis). 

Arrows became much stronger after recruiting the highly talented pair of Heinrich Hanavi and Ndanduu Kandingua. They won a knockout cup tourney on home turf, brushing aside some of the top teams from Grootfontein, Otavi and Tsumeb. 

“People should remember that Grootfontein boasted some of the best footies in the business in those years as evidenced by the exploits of the dangerous Damaseb siblings Orlando, Pieces, Pele, Steven. We also boasted unmatched talents in the shape of the legendary Doc Hardley and his equally dangerous uncle Eliphas Sabatha, while the Francis brothers Richo and Tiger were in a class of their own,” Kavindjima had said.

In 1976, Kavindjima relocated to Tsumeb after he found employment with giant grocery suppliers, South West United Agency as a merchandiser before he was elevated to the plum position of salesman in later years until his retirement in 2013.

After weighing up his options, he joined Chief Santos much to the chagrin and disappointment of his close buddies with some of his disgruntled relatives feeling the midfielder had betrayed the tradition by joining Santos instead of Red Bees. 

“The reason why I chose Santos, was a purely a football decision based on the advancement of my football career. In Meester Stone Hoeseb, Santos had a visionary leader who had the ability to instill professionalism and discipline among the playing personnel with his unmatched administrative acumen. 

A few years before his arrival, Santos predecessor Etosha Lions brought in former South African football legend, the late Chippa Moloi, to take the players through their paces. His presence rubbed off positively on the club management and players. 

Kavindjima was surrounded by greats such as Archie Ochurub, Selle Auchumeb, Mannetjie Neidel, Kapapi Ochurub, Oetietjie Neidel, Mike Nawaseb, Corrie Uri-khob and the enterprising Steps Nickel, a crowd favourite who possessed that rare knack to keep crowds on the edge of their seats with his deceiving antics and dazzling dribbling skills. 

His arrival coincided with Santos’ rise to stardom. The team dominated football in the northern part of the country, brushing aside their opponents with ease in the process bringing Rangers’ dominance to a premature halt. 

Generally, a midfield anchorman, Kavindjima was converted to the right fullback position to replace the out-of-form Kapapi Ochurub in the starting lineup. Santos claimed the scalps of their opponents enroute to winning few knockout cup competitions in the "maize triangle", until the arrival of exciting Grootfontein outfit Chelsea. 

“Although my primary position was midfield with sporadic roles as a centre back, I really enjoyed my new role at right back. If the ball goes past me, the player must kiss the dust……that was my trademark motto but that does not mean I went out to deliberately injure fellow players,” were Kavindjima’s words.

Despite his consistency and rock steady defending in the Santos rearguard, the reliable fullback never broke into the northern regional squad for ultimate selection to the provincial South West Africa Invitation XI though he was called up for trials on two occasions. 

Although he had fond memories of his amazing playing days with Santos. He expressed disappointment that he has never won any major tourney with Santos, despite a successful career that propelled Santos to become the toast of any neutral football fan across the length and breadth of the country. 

“I enjoyed my football at Santos and the emergence of youngsters such as Pele Damaseb, Crooks Casper and Hannes Louw brought a new dimension to our game. “Those boys were very dangerous, very few defenders could handle them and could destroy any opposition. Santos reached the semifinals of many knockout tourneys but to be brutally honest Windhoek-based teams were very strong always leaving us to pick up the pieces for the consolation second and third places. 

“Nevertheless, there were few unforgettable matches Santos matched our much-fancied opponents’ pound for pound. We gave them a decent run for their money, and I will never forget our semifinal clash against Orlando Pirates in Windhoek. Sadly, I collided with my teammate Jerry Tjizo and suffered a career ending knee injury.” 

He was in the starting line-up when Santos made history by becoming the first black football club to feature in an officially sanctioned exhibition match against a white club. 

Kavindjima further shared that they came up against Ramblers and lost 3-1 in Windhoek, “but it was indeed a good learning curve for us. In those days teams had decent support structures at their disposal strengthened by the presence of second teams serving as feeders for the first team while fringe players and regular starters returning from injury could also make use of the platform to recuperate. The competition for starting berths was tough as players had to train hard and maintain consistency to be selected.” 

“I will always cherish our intense battles with African Stars a tough nut to crack in many of our countless encounters. In our generation we had great players who possessed that rare ability to win matches with one moment of individual brilliance. This is where blokes like Dahle Stephanus, Selle, Nangi Nickel and Poriro spring to mind,” he concluded. 

2024-03-28  Carlos Kambaekwa

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