Be it in boardrooms, pubs, kambashus, busses, taxis or the usual unofficial gatherings on street corners, any discussion about the beautiful game of football in Namibia without the mere mention of Simon Hiskia, better known as Sisingi will be considered incomplete.
In today’s edition of our Inside the Aged, we take great pleasure in featuring one the greatest pioneers of domestic football, a man who dedicated and sacrificed his fairly young and promising life to liberate his oppressed people through the gospel of football.
Sisingi was born a strong and fearless leader and almost single-handedly transformed the local game into a marketable entity while maximizing the beautiful game as a meaningful weapon to fight the evils of racial discrimination during the height of the South African apartheid era.
He has done a lot and certainly paved the way for the growth of domestic football although his presence and valuable contribution were to be abbreviated by the South African bloodhounds desperately seeking to ground the slippery Sisingi on suspicion of his involvement in underground politics.
New Era Sport brings to you the reader the life and experiences of Sisingi, a silky politician, journalist and one of the greatest football administrators to emerge from the shores of our beloved Land of the Brave. We also touch on the crucial role and untold story of how Africa’s football supremo Kaizer Motaung, anchored Sisingi to Botswana via South Africa.
WINDHOEK – Simon “Ndapewa” Hiskia, aka Sisingi, was born in Grootfontein in 1942.He came to the city of lights Windhoek at an early age to start his primary schooling at the Rhenisch Herero School in Windhoek’s old location under the tutelage of school principal Jack Vries and Theo Katjimune.
During his infant years, young Sisingi struck a telepathic relationship with his boyhood buddy Theo “Tjizembua” Ndisiro. The pair formed a deadly combination on the football field while playing for the school’s football team alongside the likes of George “Kanima” Hoveka, Nandos Mbako and Obed Kamburona, among others.
It was not long before he joined forces with Tigers Football Club’s second strings but soon graduated to the first team where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Coloured Kakololo, Nandos Mbako, Tikkie Nambahu, Ferdinand Akwenye, Seth Urib, Honnie Ochurub, Onesmus Akwenye and the legendary Timo Mwetuyela.
Apart from football, the energetic Sisingi, a true gentleman, was a tireless political activist who fought tooth and nail to overthrow apartheid that led to his expulsion from the Augustineum High School in Okahandja in 1962. This after he fell foul of the authorities’ crime sheet as he aggressively spearheaded the Swapo campaign against racial injustice.
Tigers FC together with old foes African Stars, Cape Wanderers and Eleven Congress (to be renamed Black Africa in the intervening years) were banned from playing matches at the lawn football pitch in the modern Katutura township as punishment for their members’ refusal to relocate to the newly built residential area.
A cool headed man of substance, Sisingi became heavily involved in football administration at a very young age and joined forces with some old hands under the guidance of Joel Kariko, Foster Moetie (Cassius’ old man) Kehpas Conradie and Meester Karuhumba.
The quartet managed to convince the authorities to lift the ban against football teams from the old location playing at the modern Katutura stadium, leading to the inevitable establishment of the Katutura Soccer Association under the umbrella of the South West Africa Bantu Football Association.
In those days, blacks were competing separately, coloureds on one side with the whites also doing their own thing. Sisingi was at the forefront leading negotiations for the first ever football match featuring players from across the colour line that pitted the South West Africa Black Invitational side to compete beyond its borders in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1969.
The tour was to open doors for local footballers to be noticed by South African scouts who started flocking across the Orange River to look for raw talent. Sisingi made significant inroads in the annals of South African football and became close buddies with leading South African football administrators including Kaizer Motaung.
It was not long before Motaung brought an exciting outfit in the shape of Kaizer Eleven to Windhoek for a number of exhibition matches against local invitation teams. The wide awake Motaung had certainly seen enough to convince him that South West Africa had the talent as he recruited some highly able local footballers that included Lemmy Narib, Pele Blaschke, Pius Eigowab and Oscar Mengo to feature for his newly established team and as they say, the rest is history.
Sisingi continued with his tireless work as he sought to unite football. Together with the late Chris Nel, Sisingi was instrumental in the smooth organization of the historic friendly football match between the South West Africa Black Eleven and their white counterparts at a packed to the rafters Suidwes Rugby Stadium in 1975.
The sold out match ended in a controversial 3-all stalemate after the whites equalised from a dubious thrice-taken penalty kick which proved to be the last throw of the dice of an otherwise entertaining match that saw Chief Santos sharpshooter Celle Auchumeb tormenting the opposition with his canon-like shots – much to the delight of thousands of supporters from all walks of life in attendance.
As fate would have it in 1979, local football was to kiss goodbye to one of the most adored football administrators up to the modern day when Sisingi was made to duck and hide for his life. Local authorities got wind of his apparent involvement in the Kranzburg bombing. His blue Chevrolet Constantia vehicle was impounded by the trigger-happy Bowker Boys (hit squad) for no apparent reason and was later sold on auction. This after their long sharp nostrils made them believe the vehicle provided transport to those suspected of having planted the bomb.
After playing hide and seek with the cops for sometime – his political allies resolved to smuggle him into South Africa since the Angolan, Botswana and Zambia gateways were considered to be too risky and dangerous escape routes.
Sisingi silently slipped out of his native land with his younger brother Paul Hiskia and a few others to South Africa whereupon he was placed in the care of Kaizer Motaung, who subsequently managed against all odds to smuggle him into Botswana. Sisingi eventually arrived safely in Zambia and later went to Angola before he left to further his academic studies in Cuba, where he was trained as a journalist.
“In those days, we tactically used the game of football to mobilise people teaching them about the finer points of political awareness,” recalls Sisingi’s younger brother Elliot “Oom Paul” Hiskia, himself a noted football administrator during his heyday.
Sisingi is the man accredited to have convinced local authorities to construct what was then meant to be a multi-purpose football stadium, the Windhoek stadium to be re-christened Independence Stadium after Namibia’s Independence in 1990.
It all happened after the two exhibition matches between the white and black invitational teams that let many people including those in power realize that football had the potential to unite people and the transitional second tier government grabbed the opportunity with both hands and got the wheels rolling.
This spacious stadium was supposed to be the mecca of local football and was initially designed to have hotels and a horde of other recreational facilities but has ever since stagnated and the initial construction remains stuck in the first phase. The late Sisingi was a founder member of the Namibia Press Agency (Nampa).
He may not have lived long enough to witness and enjoy the success of his unwavering efforts but he will be sorely remembered for his valuable contribution towards domestic football. May his legacy live forever and may his soul rest in eternal peace.
By Carlos Kambaekwa