A day in the life of unheralded football icon, “Uncle Bob”

At long last, one of the forgotten pioneers in Namibian football, Bobby Sissing, has been finally recognised for his unselfish contribution towards the overall growth of local football.

The hippy-look-alike football crazy Uncle Bob, was deservedly bestowed with the prestigious NPL Chairman Award by Patrick Kauta, during the NPL Awards ceremony a fortnight ago.

The recognition has prompted renewed calls from the Khomasdal field to be renamed after the legendary Sissing.

As has been previously emphasised in our weekly sports feature, Tales of the Legends, New Era Sports obviously have your wish fully taken care of, as we bring you tales about what the greatest footballer of all time Edson Arantes Donascimento, aka, Pele simply dubbed the beautiful game right on your doorstep as we take you, our esteemed reader down memory lane with most adorable yet least recognised pioneers of Namibian football, Bobby Sissing.

Carlos CK Kambaekwa

WINDHOEK � Just the mere mentioning of Bobby Sissing, should be enough to dispatch butterflies sizzling and running riot in the tummies of every bloke, who claims to know the finer points of the game in their own right when it comes to the rigours of domestic football.

Uncle Bob as the hippy-look-alike, football crazy, football cum administrator and father of nine siblings is affectionately known amongst local football folklore, was the catalyst behind the unavoidable formation of non-racial football under the much despised slogan No Normal Sport in an Abnormal Society, back in the day.

Born Bobby Sissing in Keetmanshoop on May 29, 1942, young Bobby would become inseparable with any spherical subject resembling a football, and it came as no surprise when the tough-as-steak stocky youngster went on to make a name for himself in the upper echelons of domestic football.

Sadly, his flourishing football career was to be horribly abbreviated by a stray bullet at the notorious Star Hotel nightclub in Khomasdal in 1974.

Bobby started chasing leather at the tender age of six, mostly on street corners and went on to establish himself as a footballer of note when his father relocated to Karasburg, where he opened up a garage, after his marriage ran into trouble.

It was in the dusty streets of Karasburg, where Bobby came out of his shell after joining the town's top football team Marits United before he immigrated to Windhoek, where he revived his beloved club Marits.

Upon his arrival in the capital, Bobby wasted little time as he teamed up with the Moller brothers Louis and Charl, Jan Besssinger and Fred Peterson to call into life a new football side christened Marits United, because Bobby would not let go of his boyhood team.

Marits started playing organised football in then coloured football league, consisting of Black Spiders, Golden Arrows, Thistles and Burnley United in Windhoek's old location, today Hochland Park.

As he turned back the clock in the comfort of his well-decorated lounge at his residence in Khomasdal, Uncle Bob recalled:

Those were the days when we played football for the love of the game. We had two major tourneys annually during the Easter weekend and would all converge down at the sea level while the final tourney was staged in Rehoboth in September every year.

Aged just 17, Bobby witnessed firsthand the brutality of the then South African apartheid regime, during the forced removal of natives from the old location in 1959.

After we were forcefully relocated to Khomasdal from the old location � we formed a league with the late Paul van Harte as chairman of the newly formed league, added Uncle Bob.

In 1966, the militant Bobby stood his ground challenging the system after authorities resolved that Coloureds/Basters and Bantus should not play in a combined team.

The South West Africa (SWA) Bantu Invitational Eleven was scheduled to compete in a provincial tournament in neigbouring South Africa, but the Bowker boys would have none of that.

Subsequently, the team never went to the promised land of honey and milk, as both sets of footballers refuse to be segregated.

Bobby's fairytale relationship with the football institution that was Marits United, finally came to an end in 1969, when the football mad player-turned-administrator stunned his teammates and club officials with his refusal to honour an important league decider against Thistles.

It was the weekend when the star-studded Kaizer Eleven outfit touched down at Eros Airport, for their historic two-day tour of South West Africa that finally paved the way for local footballers to ply their trade in the professional ranks across the Orange River.

The South Africans were slated to feature in two exhibition matches against a Central Invitational Eleven and Uncle Bob decided there and then that this occasion was not to be missed.

As fate would have it, the charismatic longhaired footballer, whose looks resembled that of Liverpool's most famous son and Beatles' front man John Lennon, ended up as a substitute referee in both matches after he was persuaded by the late Herbert Conradie to take up the whistle.

A furious Kaizer Motaung and his traveling brigade bitterly protested the level of fitness of the hastily appointed match official, the late Coloured Kakololo halfway through the match and were finally granted their wish when the gutsy Uncle Bob stepped in and lived up to the challenge.

Bobby's unending flirtation with township football was not taken kindly by the brainwashed coloured community, which resulted in the defiant young man parting ways with his beloved Marits United FC.

Though his unfortunate departure to the formation of Atlanta Chiefs FC, together with Peter Riehl, Jan Bessinger and the late Allan van Harte (the finest coloured footballer to have ever graced the chores of domestic football up to this day) the group wasted little time as they assembled what would become the toast of Khomasdal football in later years.

Bobby modeled the formation of Atlanta Chiefs on the establishment of Kaizer Eleven, recruiting top footballers from the mother city, Cape Town led by Willy Rwida, Jeffrey Davids, Raymond Gogo Barreiro, blonde shot stopper Ronald Wentzel and mercurial midfielder Lionel Boet Mathews, retired sports editor of the Afrikaans daily Die Republikein.

Soon afterwards, an exodus of other footballers from the townships also joined the fray, spearheaded by Eleven Arrows' speedy winger Tommy Uushona, Steps Neidel, Bernard Da Costa Philemon and Buriekie Hangula-Vorster leading the pack.

However, a single bullet from an intoxicated trigger-happy German national saw the expensively assembled Atlanta Chiefs crimpling like hot cake when the militant Uncle Bob, an anti-apartheid activist was shot in the abdomen at the notorious Star Hotel in Khomasdal in 1974 � leading to the natural death of football in Khomasdal.

Upon his miraculous recovery, Uncle Bob came out firing on all cylinders as he stunned the entire football fraternity by publicly aligning himself and the Khomasdal Football Association with Swapo political movement � a stance that did not go well down the throats of local authorities.

Subsequently, the face of domestic football changed dramatically when Bobby and his troops point-blankly refused to play in the Multi-Racial League for whites, coloureds and darkies in 1977.

His refusal was under the slogan No Normal Sport in an Abnormal Society. The breakaway group joined forces with their South African counterparts in the South African Council on Sport (SACOS).

We were crunched as rebels, denied certain human rights and sponsorships but stuck to our guns vowing to emphasise through word and deed that football was indeed about comradeship. We remained a member of SACOS until Namibia was freed, said Bobby.

Uncle Bob strongly believes he can still contribute to the development of local football in an advising capacity. He urges football administrators and authorities to bury the hatchet in the best interest of the game.

I still believe people like Hendrik Christians and Oscar Mengo have a lot to offer in football, but petty issues are hampering our progress in this regard, concludes the retired tough talking football administrator cum-political-activist.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia