Football’s forgotten man, Erich “Richo” Ouseb

The northern copper town of Tsumeb has in the past produced a significant number of great footballers who went on to establish themselves as noted athletes in the top echelons of domestic football.

Those that spring to mind are Engelhard Gariseb, Benzil Khodiseb, Gunter Hellinghausen, Sagari's "Cell" Auchumeb, Amos "Nangi Watch" and Steps Nickel, Stanislous, Kapapi Ochurub, Albert and Hannes Louw, Asser Uatjavi Mbai, Times Mwetuyela, Zebulon "Honnie "Ochurub, Johannes" Pwiro "Hangula, Gabes Dausab, Licky Gideon, Richard Wahl, Kauru Billhawer, Ahrens siblings Hasso, Uwe and Gernot, Martin and Johnny Veiko.

And whilst a big chunk of the abovementioned footballers turned out for Nomtsoub giants Etosha Lions (Chief Santos) and Rangers FC respectively � Benfica Football Club also had its fair share of football stars.

One such athlete was none other than lethal free-scoring centre forward Erich Ouseb, better known as Ou Richo in football circles.

New Era Sport caught up with the retired stocky forward who also had a short-lived stint with Katutura giants Tigers in the mid-90's before an unfortunate career-ending motor vehicle accident abruptly abbreviated his promising sporting journey while still at the pinnacle of his football career.

TSUMEB - For the football-crazy inhabitants of Tsumeb, the unavoidable introduction of the annual Top 16 knockout tournament was the defining image of reinforcing the dominance of football teams from that neck of the woods.

Local clubs Chief Santos, Rangers, Red Bees and Benfica football clubs certainly made their presence felt in the now defunct popular competition which attracted the crAme de la crAme of local football to the traditionally laid-back mining town, back in the day.

Those were the days when many a sports entity, including the beautiful game of football, was formed along tribal lines, a practice that was primarily influenced by the cultural segregation systematically implemented by the South African apartheid regime.

Athletes daring to defy the tradition were portrayed as betrayers and would be despised amongst their respective tribes and close family members.

However, young Richo managed to escape the wrath of his immediate community when he defied the old tradition by joining Benfica, prominently an Oshiwambo speaking institution � much to the chagrin of close family members.

Elder brothers Barnabas BB, Ticket Kartjie and Pele Ouseb all played for Santos at different intervals while his nephew Mohammed Slice Ouseb would in later years don the orange and green strip of Santos.

Richo's sister Dubahe (Slice's old lady) a formidable netballer in her own right also played for Santos during her younger days.

Santos turned me down, claiming that my small frame was not conducive for competitive football. As a result, I went to try my luck at Rangers and they did not hesitate to throw me into the lions' den.

He accepted the challenge with both hands hitting the ground running and like many youngsters, the merciless net-buster started out in Rangers' second strings alongside boyhood buddies Ferdinand Naibab, Lucas Uiseb and other gifted boys from the neighbourhood, but was soon promoted to the first team.

Richo made his debut in the annual top 16 tournament on home soil. Richo rose to prominence whilst playing for the star-studded Petrus Ganeb High School football team in Uis, in the sparsely populated Kunene Region. Back home, his near faultless performance at club level in the black and red strip of Rangers week in and week out, caught the attention of talent scouts.

In those days in the absence of organised league structures, one did not need a transfer clearance from your club to play for another team � notably in knockout tournaments.

An influential club official from Benfica FC approached me and requested that I play for the club as a guest player in a tournament, and as they say, the rest is history. His arrival at Benfica coincided with the demise of Rangers FC as the once mighty Nomtsoub outfit faded silently from the football scene.

Richo immediately settled down and fitted like a hand in glove in the blue and white strip firing line, alongside the dangerous Uushona brothers Daddy, Pecks and Lovey.

He spearheaded the Nomtsoub outfit to victory in the Metropolitan knockout cup final against Black Africa at the Windhoek stadium. Richo also appeared in other finals but was unable to steer the team to victory in the Novel Ford and JPS Cup finals.

The kind of striker guaranteed at least to deliver 20 goals a season, Richo would feature regularly in the Northern Invitational Eleven and the South West Africa (SWA) Presidential side.

Having achieved heights and winning almost every available silverware there was to be won � it was time for another challenge and Richo left Benfica � only to resurface in the city of bright lights at Katutura giants Tigers FC after his homeboy George Bandike Ochurub dangled a juicy carrot in his face in the shape of a lucrative job offer in 1995.

Sadly, his career was cut short by a catastrophic road accident between Rundu and Grootfontein. Richo was unable to recover sufficiently from facial injuries sustained in the horrific accident. Although he missed out playing alongside brothers Kartjie and Barnabas � Richo is full of praises for his kith and kin.

My brothers always encouraged motivating me to do well and I always looked up to them for their guidance and inspiration. I was showered with lots of moral support, especially from the incumbent Namibian Judge President Petrus Damaseb, Willem Basson (late) and Hendrik Louw.

Born in Tsumeb on the 15th of May 1960, the now 57-year old Richo singles out the tough tackling Umati brothers Hophney (Grey) and Johannes (Kumi)as the most feared defenders of his generation.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia