What do Rastafarians and football have in common? That is the niggling question on the lips of some of the followers of the beautiful game. Holland had Ruud Gullit and Frank Rikaard, France boasted Christian Karembeu, Thabo Mngomeni pulled the strings for South Africa and Malawian midfielder Ernst Mtawali had very few peers when it came to passing and controlling the pace of the game.
Gangling goal poacher Rodger Lupiya led the Chipolopolo’s firing line with distinction, while Zimbabwean Benjamin Mwaruwari is doubtlessly that country’s most successful football export. Well, Namibia was not to be outdone and had a significant number of their own football playing Rastafarians in the shape of Cascas Angula, China Utoni and Marcellus Witbeen. But the most adorable among them all was former Golden Bees FC playmaker Samani ‘Rasta” Kamerika. New Era Sports finally caught up with the former stocky midfield genius, and here is his story - revealing the quirky and abstruse facts about his astonishing football career.
OUTJO – Gerhard Samani Kamerika, better known as Rasta in football circles, was born at the northern town of Outjo on December 24. When he was a youngster at the Saint Michael Catholic Mission Primary School about 50 kilometres on the main road linking to Kamanjab – he started chasing leather in the absence of other sporting facilities.
Aged fourteen and hardly out of his shorts, Samani moved to the Saint Joseph‘s Secondary School at Döbra and immediately joined the school team going by the name of Eusebio XI Football Club. There he found himself in the company of other talented footballers such as Max Johnson, Immanuel Garab Gariseb and Herman “Blue” Karimbue.
It took the highly talented stocky youngster just two months before the wide-awake Meester Willem Hans recognised his talent and promoted the boy to the school’s first team. He would later go on to play alongside lightning fast winger, the late Anton “Stouter” Ochurub and many of his teammates from Eusebio XI. Young Samani represented the star-studded Döbra team with distinction as the team launched a strong and unprecedented challenge in domestic football and made its presence felt in various knockout tournaments across the length and breadth of the country and excelled as a no-nonsense right back.
Back home in his native town Outjo, Samani was one of the founder members of the exciting Etoshapoort-based outfit - Golden Bees Football Club.
The newly formed outfit was short of an attacking midfielder since they wanted to go for broke and challenge the dominance of other football clubs at the town.
Their competitors included the likes of Bentley Chiefs, Pubs and Eusebio XI, but Golden Bees looked no further than the Rastaman to fill the role – a task he would fulfill with great aplomb and maturity belying his age. On leaving school, Samani found employment at the Rössing uranium mine near Arandis and immediately knuckled down to some serious business – throwing his weight together with other new recruits to form their own football club - the inimitable Sorento Bucks. He also represented the star-studded Rössing uranium mine football team in the annual Inter-Mines Games and led Sorento Bucks to several triumphs in knockout tournaments played at Arandis and nearby towns such as Uis, Karibib and Usakos. After six years at Rössing, Samani packed his bags and returned to his hometown Outjo in 1982 to rejoin his former club Golden Bees.
He was reunited with some of the finest footballers to have emerged from that neck of the woods, which included Bantu Nangombe, Adios Haimbondi, Aluis Kazimbu and Namab Gaoseb under the tutorship of former African Stars utility defender Petrus Mazenge and Ernst Amporo.
Samani took over the coaching reins alongside Amporo - doubling up as player/coach and his experience went on to rub off on his highly talented, but relatively inexperienced, team-mates as the gold and blue outfit started to make serious inroads into the top echelons of domestic football. The Outjo-based team announced their arrival in domestic football with some breathtaking performances, while their simple one-touch carpet football left many teams wondering what had hit them.
“We recruited some talented youngsters, mainly schoolboys from the neighbourhood and blended them with some of the finest footballers from the township. There was an incredible esprit de corps within the team and all the players exercised an unbelievably high degree of discipline and professionalism,” reveals Samani.
“For some strange reason, we became self-assured and confident that we possessed the ability and capability to beat any team and we were indeed vindicated as we went on to win several knockout tournaments in places like Khorixas, Otavi, Tsumeb, Grootfontein and Otjiwarongo before we ran out of opponents and resolved to join the northern division two league.”
Golden Bees won promotion to the country’s division one league at only their first attempt and the league rookies fared fairly well in the first season in topflight football as they drew a lot of respect from many of their opponents. Many top football clubs took note of Bees’ excellent form and started visiting Outjo to engage in friendly matches against the emerging sleeping giants of northern football.
Samani’s influence on the playing field convinced his team-mates to name him captain and the influential playmaker went on to skipper the gold and blue outfit for an unforgettable five years. He would eventually go on and represent South West Africa against the visiting South African Invitation XI that crushed the South West Africa amateurs 6-0 at the old Windhoek Stadium, renamed Independence Stadium with the advent of independence from the South African apartheid regime in 1990.
Samani, together with team-mate Bantu Nangombe and Black Marokko Chiefs (BMC) playmaker Linton Aseb were among the few representatives from the north. He also featured regularly for the Northern XI in several exhibition matches with some of the top clubs in Windhoek chasing his signature.
“A lot of teams were eager to have me in their squads promising to offer me better employment opportunities in Windhoek, but having witnessed the plight of many other players who jumped ship only to find themselves wandering around in Windhoek aimlessly after they have been dumped when they failed to produce the goods. I though otherwise.”
Despite his success on the football field, the easy-going and soft-spoken Kamerika still has some regrets over his involvement in the game of football.
“There was no money in the game but we had very good players and our team Golden Bees was just as good as any other team in the business. I could have played for my favourite team Kaizer Chiefs in the South African Professional Soccer League (PSL) had it not been for apartheid.”
The versatile playmaker strongly believes that players like Albert Tjihero, Hannes Louw, Kaputji Kuhanga, Steve Haihambo and Oscar Mengo were good enough to ply their trade in any top professional league in the world, had the circumstances been conducive.