Tales of the Legends – Kariirii Katire, the Defensive Maestro

FORMER Black Africa defender Bonifacius “Willy” Katire, better known as Kariirii or better still Garrincha in football circles, offers an insight into how the inevitable arrival of Oscar “Silver Fox” Mengo changed the ailing fortunes of Katutura glamour football club African Stars.

A product of the Saint Joseph’s Secondary School (Dobra) north-east of Windhoek, Garrincha started his club football at unfashionable Katutura outfit Flames FC before joining forces with African Stars via Katutura rivals Black Africa.

He was in the starting line-up of the star-studded Pius Eigowab-inspired Black Africa squad that lost narrowly (2-3) to African Stars in the final of the historical Daves Furnishers Cup at the packed-to-rafters old Katutura Stadium in 1974.

There is an old saying that if you can’t beat them – join them! Garrincha fell prey to this ancient adage as he reluctantly abandoned his boyhood team to find refuge with Stars after he was sweet-talked into crossing the floor by his buddy and former team-mate at Flames, Silver Fox – and as they say, the rest is history.

Statistics behind African Stars’ success during the infant years of multi-racial football in Namibia was nothing short of a superbly telepathic partnership between the team’s defenders, manned by the charismatic Willy Rwida, arguably the game’s best reader during his generation, aided by the rock steady defensive work of Kierie Tjituaiza, Albert Tjihero, Merino Kandonga and Garrincha.

Born in Windhoek’s old location in 1951, Garrincha started playing competitive football in 1963 at the age of 12 at the Saint Joseph’s Secondary School (Dobra) with a small club at the school’s hostel going by the name of Soronto Bucks FC, where he played alongside Linus Garoeb, Celle Auchumeb, Gabes Dausab, John Hans and Edward Claasen among a galaxy of highly gifted young footballers.

After a while, Garrincha graduated to the school’s second strings and was subsequently promoted to the first team. He made an immediate impact playing in the unfamiliar midfield anchorman position instead of his preferred right wing where he used to torment opposing defenders with powerful runs down the line, while his trademark grass cutters proved quite a hot potato to handle for many goalkeepers.

“We had a very g squad laden with energetic gifted footballers competing fiercely in several knockout tournaments and certainly gave a good account of ourselves against formidable opponents such as Orlando Pirates, Namib Woestyn, African Stars, Black Africa, Blue Waters, Tigers and Eleven Arrows,” reveals the soft spoken Garrincha.

The arrival of greats such as Malaka Somseb, Pius Eigowab, Five Hochobeb and Steve Stephanus strengthened the squad to the extent that some of the established teams were frightened to face Dobra, notably on their home ground, the ‘House of Pain’.

In the meantime, Flames FC came calling and Garrincha found himself turning out for the flamboyant but average green and gold outfit after he was enticed by old buddy Oscar Mengo to join the club.

Although the club managed to lure a number of top players to their nest in Traugot Handura Street in the OD section, Katutura Central – Flames never won any respectable major silverware and the majority of the defectors that included Albert Louw, Kauru Bilhawer, Brown Amwenye, Gotty Geiseb, Andehe Haimbodi and others made a quick retreat to their respective clubs of origin.

It was only fitting that Garrincha would join boyhood team Black Africa to be reunited with his Dobra team-mates. He was a valuable squad member of the Gemengde-based outfit’s successful tour to Botswana and Johannesburg, South Africa where they defeated Township Rollers (Botswana) and Swaraj (SA India League) with ease.

In the meantime, Mengo had started a small football team playing in exhibition matches to while away the time at the old Municipal Stadium in Katutura. Silver Fox assembled the best talented young footballers on offer from the Herero section. At first, the social club was baptized Young Stars before it was renamed Golden FC soon afterwards.

“Those were the good old days when young footballers would play the game of football with determination, commitment, pride and more importantly for the love of the game, while showing great respect for the paying customers,” recalls Garincha with tears of joy including the revelatiom of a slight pinch of regret running freely down his ageing cheeks.

Golden FC became the toast of the township as exhibition matches between them and Ehahe FC under the guidance of the late Kaika Kuzee drew large crowds to the extent that the interest and attendance demonstrated by the Herero-speaking folk dwarfed the status of the community’s biggest club African Stars.

The elders acted swiftly and persuaded both sets of players to throw their weight together in an effort to strengthen an ageing Stars outfit. Garrincha had no other choice than to heed the call. After all, blood is thicker than water and he obediently withdrew his services for his beloved BA to start a new chapter with the transformed red-hot Reds.

He went on to enjoy unsurpassed success with Stars under the tutorship of no-nonsense mentor Kella Kauta during the formative years of multi-racial football and was a vital member of the Reds squad that brushed aside g teams such as Sparta and Ramblers in their own backyards.

Garrincha was converted to the right fullback position to replace the ageing Mike “Kangova’ Pack, but had to shift to central defence to make room for the arrival of young and enterprising overlapping fullback George Gariseb.

His partnership with Willy Rwida, Albert Tjihero and Kierie Tjituaiza in the heart of the Reds rearguard was justifiably duped the “Rock of Gibraltar” by those in the know. During a successful spell with the Katutura glamour football club, Garrincha won everything there was to win in domestic football including the cup double in the maiden season of multiracial football in 1977.

Garrincha took no prisoners on the field of play with his bone-crunching tackles, while his rock steady defending caught the eye of the selectors who duly picked the gly built defender for the Central Invitation Eleven that played against the visiting Kaizer Chiefs Morrokka Swallows from South Africa.

He won several high-profile knockout tournaments with Stars, notably the prestigious Mainstay Cup in 1977, 1980, 1981 and 1984 and also toured Kimberley, South Africa with Stars. Garrincha retired from active football in 1985 after battling to shake off a career-ending knee injury at the fairly aanced age of 34.

The usually calculated and soft-spoken Garrincha minces no words as he blasts the current crop of footballers accusing them of lacking commitment and courage besides the large amounts of money at stake in football nowadays.

“In our time, we used to play for starting berths knowing very well in the back of your mind that if you don’t perform to the full satisfaction of the coach you are likely to be dropped for the next game.”

Garrincha cites former team-mates Oscar Mengo and Albert Louw as the greatest footballers of his generation and admits dreading playing against the sharp-shooting Celle Auchumeb and the tricky Siggy Anderson.

Source : New Era