The kind of carpet football displayed by Chelsea Football Club in years gone by is certainly enough justification for many local football pundits to classify the Grootfontein-based outfit as the most exciting and glamorous football entity ever to have graced Namibian shores.
Former Chelsea defender Albert Naobeb, aka Kid, was a founder member of Chelsea Football Club up until his retirement in 1987. Born in Grootfontein on the 27th of June 1955, the football-crazy Kid grew up in Tsumeb, but soon retreated to his hometown Grootfontein to start his primary education.
He only started playing serious football when he enrolled at the St Joseph’s Secondary School (Döbra) to further his schooling. Kid joined a school team going by the name of Sorento Bucs, before he graduated to the school’s first team where he played alongside the likes of Max Johnson, John Hans, Albert Tjihero, Five Hochobeb, Kariirii Katire, Mike Hans and Koekie Naobeb, among others.
In the meantime, Kid, together with boyhood buddy Anton “Orlando” Damaseb, threw their weight together and started a football club back in the Omulunga Township of Grootfontein, which they christened Goal Hunters Football Club. The team eventually amalgamated with Proteas FC to form Chelsea FC.
GROOTFONTEIN – The seemingly effortless dominance of Chief Santos FC on football pitches across the northern parts of the country actually led to the inevitable establishment of Chelsea Football Club.
“Santos used to sweep their opponents aside and became invincible - so although there were a good number of talented footballers in Grootfontein, there were hopelessly too many teams around and we resolved to have one strong team that could challenge Chief Santos, with the ultimate aim of bringing their dominance to a premature halt,” recalls Kid.
In 1977, most of the top players from Goal Hunters and Proteas joined hands and decided to dissolve their underachieving clubs to form Chelsea FC, because they became tired of playing second fiddle to Santos.
“They (Santos) were a really good side, but for some strange reason it did not take us long before we became a formidable force to be reckoned with in domestic football, because we all came from the same backyard.”
Blessed with amazing speed, Kid started his football career as an old fashioned wing, before he was converted to fullback. “We were very fortunate that in teacher Ellis Uuwanga, we had an astonishing leader with great management skill and also very knowledgeable about the finer points of the beautiful game.
It was not long before the exciting Grootfontein-based outfit started to live their dream by halting Chief Santos’ dominance. Chelsea FC announced their arrival on the football scene with some great performances that culminated in wins in many local knockout tournaments in the ‘maize triangle’ region of Grootfontein, Otavi and Tsumeb.
The team was among the first black football clubs to teach their more tactically superior white counterparts a football lesson when they beat Sport Klub Windhoek (SKW) hands down in their own backyard in an exhibition match. Chelsea’s arrival coincided with the emergence of multi-racial football in South West Africa in 1977.
Chelsea surprised both friend and foe by reaching the knockout stages of the National Football League playoffs to represent the north alongside Otjiwarongo-based outfit Black Marroko Chiefs (BMC).
“The league was very competitive and what made it even more difficult for us, when playing away from home is that we never traveled with more than twelve players, because many of our playing personnel had work commitments and could often not secure leave on Saturdays.”
Despite all the odds stacked against them, Chelsea became the most sought-after football team in the entire South West Africa and the fact that they reached the final of the country’s most coveted annual knockout tournament - the Mainstay Cup - three times, bears testimony to Chelsea’s unquestionable upsurge in domestic football.
“The main reason why we always failed to negotiate our way past the final hurdle was a combination of a number of things, ranging from bad luck, fatigue, while dubious refereeing decisions went against us on many occasions. In those days, all the referees were from Windhoek and teams from the capital seemed to enjoy preferential treatment when it came down to getting the benefit of the doubt.”
Chelsea always fini-shed tops on the log standings in the highly competitive Northern Division One League and that convinced the country’s football governing body to stage the national championship play-offs at a neutral venue – there is no doubt that Chelsea could have been the undisputed champions of domestic football. Kid also represented the dangerous Northern Invitational side on many occasions.
When Oscar Mengo and Five Hochobeb spearheaded a revolt to form the breakaway Namibia National Soccer League (NNSL) in 1985 - Chelsea and fellow northerners Benfica Football Club also joined the fray in the eight-team league that included top coastal sides Eleven Arrows and Blue Waters, while the central region had the largest contingent of teams represented in the rebel league led by African Stars, Black Africa, Orlando Pirates and Tigers.
Unfortunately, Chelsea were unable to reach their full potential since many of the leading players in the squad decided to tie the knot with their sweethearts and found themselves entangled in an array of newfound conjugal responsibilities, while others received better job offers outside Grootfontein – a development which seriously hampered the team’s progress and led to the team falling behind in the pecking order.
“That scenario certainly contributed to the demise of Chelsea and it’s not only that, many players felt that they were constantly being short-changed through biased refereeing, notably when we played in Windhoek and resolved to call it quits.”
According to the hard-tackling and fast galloping former Chelsea defender, it’s a very sad picture to watch today’s footballers struggling to make an impact and to impose themselves on the football pitch, considering the large amounts of money that is being pumped into football nowadays.
“During our time, there was no money, but we were very passionate about the game of football and showed a lot of respect towards the paying customers and our supporters. Things are too easy these days – football was totally different in almost all the aspects of the game then, because the quality of players in the teams was always top class. There were extremely gifted footballers around and guys like Ferdinand “Ou Gold” Namubeb, Celle Auchumeb, Oscar Mengo, Orlando Damaseb and Doc Hardley were undoubtedly in a class of their own.”