Namibia: Tribute to Captain Makunda, the Gentle Giant From Kamanjab

Back in the day, competition for starting berths with top football clubs campaigning in the domestic topflight league was very intense but many aspiring athletes refused point-blankly to despair.

In those days, many football clubs used their second strings to complement feeder structures with talented youngsters graduating from the reserve teams.

One such club was Katutura giants Orlando Pirates, a club spoilt for choice and laden with high-profile footballers - thus giving little room for average footballers to carve themselves places in the first team squad.

To aggravate matters, there was this misplaced or rather somehow justified notion that if one had not played on the sacred lawn pitch covering the revered Katutura stadium, known as "Okahozu" (Grassy Park) - one would be considered a moegoe, which did not exactly go well down the throats of a certain group from the Buccaneers' fringe players as this exercise made them feel inferior.

The disgruntled group resolved to sever all ties with the Ghosts ship and formed their own football club.

The new club was christened Swallows Football Club and a strongly built friendly dude going by the clan name of Makunda was among the defectors.

In today's edition, New Era Sport relives and highlights the untold sporting journey of this gentle giant, "Captain Makunda" - footballer, noted wrestler and a feared gatta (cop).

Yesterday, the 14th of July 2016 marked exactly 60 years from the day a bubbly young boy going by the name of Hendrik Namaseb, aka Makunda or better still Captain, was born in the small town of Omaruru in the Erongo Region in 1956.

The author has the privilege of knowing the huge framed Makunda inside out - since our younger days.

As youngsters barely out of our pair of shorts, we made it our sole province to chase a small spherical object in the shape of a tennis ball every single day after school, playing football at the somewhat Nil-Star Central Shopping Centre (Big Shops) in Katutura,

Despite lacking the silky skills of Pedro Brown, Vaaitjie Aperpo, Willem Eichab and Topsen "Topio" Afrikaner - all of them gone the way of all flesh - Makunda was a forceful fearless striker in his own right.

The "Silent Assassin" was a real fighter who never wanted to lose and a reliable goal-getter.

Many of us would gladly queue up to line up alongside the big framed Makunda in the popular tightly contested 3-a-side stake games behind a cafe owned by two blokes from the far north going by the names of Dawid and Paulus.

Such was the intensity of these stake games that physical fights would often break out between the players, notably the less talented ones who wanted a piece of action since the winners were obliged to remain on court. As dictated by segregation, almost everything in those days was done along tribal lines, but the beautiful game of football knew no boundaries - with the Damara, Ovaherero, Oshiwambo and Nama-speaking boys defying that tradition by playing in mixed teams.

This is exactly how many of us became unconditional close buddies up to this day. However, the rivalry from the daily games at the concrete-constructed court would escalate to the nearby municipal field on weekends.

It was where boys would be separated from men in the eleven against eleven exhibition matches that drew exceptionally large crowds.

Nevertheless, every young footballer's lifetime ambition was to play on the grass field, but this rare privilege was quite limited and only reserved for the highly gifted athletes.

On rare occasions, young footballers would frequently turn out for their boyhood clubs' second strings on the adjacent gravel B-field at the old Katutura stadium - playing in meaningless but highly competitive exhibition matches against their counterparts. Hoping to catch the eye of talent scouts with the ultimate aim of being promoted to the first team squad, chances were far between and the likes of Makunda lost patience and decided to jump ship.

Makunda and his itchy-feet companions in the company of crowd favourite the bow-legged Squash Kapuka, the highly skillful Piet Gowoseb (late), Eusebio Boois, Ewaldt Hunab Eichab, Jakkals Uirab, Willem "Botsotso" Nanub, Laban Goab and Klaus //Kheib, masterminded the inevitable birth of Swallows FC.

The new kid on the block started out in the highly competitive division two of the Katutura Central Football League.

The green and black strip outfit in no time announced their arrival in competitive football with some breathtaking performances, brushing their opponents aside with the departed Piet Gowaseb dictating the pattern of play from the middle of the park.

The newly established club managed to attract good athletes from other clubs, some of them not so good law-abiding citizens who would sporadically go off the rails, frequently finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.

These blokes needed some kind of protection and Swallows FC was just what the good doctor ordered to have their unwanted off the field antics rehabilitated.

After all, a significant chunk of Swallows' management was made up of no-nonsense well-respected gattas (police officers) - some of them real toughies from the kassie who knew every single trick in the book of tricks.

Back on the field, Makunda proved to be an aggressive goal poacher, bulldozing robust defenders with brutal strength and amazing speed, while instilling fear into goalkeepers with his canon-like shots from range that left many of them with deformed fingers.

The big-frame striker was rewarded for his never say die attitude and coolness as he was bestowed with the captain's armband, deservedly earning him the nickname "Captain" - that name has stuck to him to this day.

Apart from football, the multi-talented Makunda was a formidable decorated wrestler who combined football and wrestling with a certain measure of maturity and accuracy.

He represented his native land South West Africa (SWA) with aplomb in the highly competitive provincial championships between South African provinces and SWA during the apartheid era in South Africa. History reveals that he was the first black wrestler to represent SWA in the highly competitive South African Wrestling Championships for Bantus (blacks) in South Africa.

Despite his rookie tag, Makunda waltzed past the much-fancied South African champion to wrestle the lightweight title at Hammanskraal, South Africa, winning all his three bouts in fine style. The mild-mannered calculated wrestler, whose body resembles that of a bodybuilder, was subsequently rewarded with inclusion in the multi-racial SA wrestling team that pitted their skills against the visiting United States of America (USA). In the intervening years, Makunda was made head coach of the SWA Paralympics athletic team, which toured South Africa.

Upon retirement Makunda, a jazz fanatic, remained an ardent sports enthusiast and would often be seen scouting around for young talent among the youth in informal settlements during his leisure time.

His lifelong desire is to witness the painfully untold history of Namibian sport - past and present - being recorded and archived.

My old buddy, Makunda, the gentle giant - Happy 60th birthday and welcome to the kingdom of pensioners. May the Almighty keep an eagle eye over you and bless you with many more years ahead.

Source: New Era