Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa
OTJIWARONGO – Namibian football is riding the crest of a global wave of growth, spearheaded by the national senior football team, the Brave Warriors, which has silently contributed massively to the country’s economic activities in trying times.
Football is a growing industry worldwide and Namibia is certainly not lagging behind, with a significant chunk of footballers having found refuge in the business of chasing an inflated pigskin.
Back in the day, hundreds of spectators would flock to football matches to watch their heroes in action, with tribal pride and location dominance at stake. And whilst the forwards were enjoying the limelight scoring goals, defenders were made to do the dirty work – stopping marauding strikers right in their tracks.
And as much as many great defenders did not enjoy the same attention and applause as their celebrated teammates, there were some characters in the game that captured the imagination of the paying customers.
Katutura Giants had a big frame fellow going by the name of Izaak “Whoops” Gariseb, Namib Woestyn had Luka Lombard, Dolam Pirates had German “Tsigeib” Gariseb in their last line of defence, Black Africa had Benjamin “Spokes” Tibinyane whilst the late Jacob “Soetman” Kaune was given the enviable task of keeping troublesome strikers at bay at African Stars.
However, none of them sent shivers running riot even in the bellies of hardened criminals as did Life Fighters Football Club’s tough tackling fullback Skelly Kavetuna.
The strongly built fullback was a no-nonsense defender and a phenomenal man marker, who in case of failing to rob the ball off from marauding strikers’ feet, his conqueror would make heavy contact with mother gravity.
Born at farm Okozongominja in the vast Otjozondjupa Region in 1952, Skelly grew up in Otjiwarongo. After spending two seasons with unfashionable local football team Dodgers, Skelly joined forces with boyhood team Life Fighters in 1968 at the tender age of 18.
“In those days, it was very difficult to break into the first team. This exercise obliged us to form our own team – hence the unavoidable establishment of Dodgers Football Club.
“We assembled a very good squad comprising highly gifted youngsters in the mould of Mike Ndjao, Herman Himarwa, Gerson Day, Patrick Ndadu and Anton Ochurub amongst others. We mostly competed in knockout cup tournaments in neighbouring towns such as Outjo and Omaruru,” recalls Skelly.
His arrival at “Okahirona” as Life Fighters is affectionately known amongst its ardent followers, coincided with the exodus of some of the ageing stalwarts – making way for new blood.
Unlike many youngsters who start their career in big clubs with the second strings – Bro Skelly walked straight into Okahirona’s first team and as they say, the rest is history.
“Competition was very tough for starting berths, but I was lucky enough to be surrounded by great senior footballers such as Jayz Mbakera, Apollo Munene, Pottie Mbarandongo, Rudolph ‘Black’ Ubiteb, Pineas Katjivikua, Mike Mukaru, James Tjihuiko and Adolph Muriua.
“In those days there were no properly structured leagues, so we mostly engaged in exhibition matches or the popular knockout cup tournaments against local teams or in nearby towns such as Tsumeb, Otavi, Grootfontein and Kombat. Kombat had a very good football team made up of miners and I must admit the competition was quite tough.”
As time wore on, Okahirona started to make inroads in domestic football, spreading their wings to other big towns such as Walvis Bay and city of bright lights Windhoek, where the club competed fiercely in the popular knockout cup tournaments.
The Orwetoveni outfit started to make serious encroachments into competitive football, competing fiercely against clubs in knockout cup tourneys in Otavi, Outjo, Tsumeb, Grootfontein and Tsumeb.
Interestingly, Life Fighters became a major force to be reckoned with, notably in the football-obsessed vast maize triangle (Otavi, Tsumeb and Grootfontein).
Some of the finest footballers on offer amongst the Ovaherero-speaking community in Orwetoveni location were roped in to pilot the new kid on the block, which was soon rated amongst the country’s leading football clubs.
However, the introduction of the totally misplaced politically motivated all-inclusive Ovaherero Chief Hosea Katjikururume Kutako annual floating trophy propelled hosts Okahirona to announce their arrival on the football scene with a splendid performance in the tribal football tourney.
Many opine that the competition was systematically defined to advance tribalism and division amongst indigenous Namibians, since requirement for entrance was strictly reserved for the Ovaherero-speaking football clubs – much to the delight of the masters of apartheid.
In the meantime, Bro Skelly was to play a pivotal role in Okahirona’s march to the final of a knockout cup tournament hosted by ambitious Katutura outfit Flames at the Augustineum High School field in Windhoek.
Despite the odds stacked against them the Otjiwarongo outfit saw off pre-tournament favourites Blue Waters and Orlando Pirates as well as coastal strugglers Red Fire en route to the final to set up a date with hosts Flames. Unfortunately, the final did not materialize because of bad weather.
However, the club was notified by handwritten letter on the Friday that the final has been rescheduled for Saturday, merely a day after receiving the notice.
It was impossible for Fighters to embark on the long journey to Windhoek after such a short notice in what the club interpreted as daylight robbery, but Flames would have none of that and took points because of their opponents’ no show – much to the chagrin of the Orwetoveni outfit.
A significant chunk of the club’s playing personnel were employed in retail outlets and required to report for duty on Saturdays, unless prior arrangements were made beforehand.
Back in the day, darkies could not just roam around freely and were obliged by law to obtain travelling permits whenever they wanted to enter the city of lights. The robust defender went on to oversee several generations at his beloved club before he hung up his togs in 1983 to concentrate on politics.
A staunch stalwart of the ruling party Swapo, Bro Skelly ventured into politics and gradually climbed the ladder to become the party’s representative on the municipal council.
His tireless commitment towards community development was eventually rewarded when he was duly elected mayor of Otjiwarongo in 1991 – a position he held for eight consecutive years until 1998.
Bro Skelly was also town councillor and also held the portfolio of chairperson in the municipal council, before he was upgraded to the portfolio of regional councillor for Otjiwarongo Constituency – paving the way for a seat in the revered National Council. His next stop was the plum position of Otjozondjupa governor – a position he held until his premature retirement from active politics hastened by ill health.
“Look, modern politics is not for us from the old school, for us it was about the struggle fighting for equality but sadly politics of the belly has become the order of the day nowadays with too many conflicts amongst comrades,” says the father of eight – four daughters and four sons – amongst them elder daughter incumbent Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Juliet Kavetuna.