Uncle Bob Broke Racial Barriers

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Inside the Aged

Once again – welcome to the 2nd edition of our weekly Sport Feature page, under the title “Inside the Aged”.
As previously emphasized in our maiden edition, New Era Sport and of course you the reader now have your wish fully taken care of as we bring you what the greatest footballer of all time Pele simply dubbed “the beautiful game” right on your door step and there could not have been a better platform than to take you down memory lane with one of the pioneers of domestic football.

By Carlos Kambaekwa

WINDHOEK

The mere mention of Bobby Sissing should be enough to send butterflies sizzling and running riot in the tummies of every bloke who claims to be a guru in his own right when it comes to the annals of domestic football.

“Uncle Bob” as the hippie-look-a-alike 65-year-old father of nine is affectionately known among the local football folklore, was the catalyst behind the establishment of non-racial football under the slogan “No Normal Sport in an Abnormal Society” in years gone by.

Born in the Southern capital of Keetmanshoop on May 29, 1942, little Bobby and any spherical subject which resembled a soccer ball became inseparable and it came as no surprise when the stocky tough-as-steak youngster went on to make a name for himself in later years until his football career was cut short by a reckless bullet at the notorious Star Hotel in Khomasdal in 1974 (today Club Remix).

Young Bobby started chasing leather at the tender age of six on street corners and went on to establish himself as a footballer of note when his father moved to Karasburg where he opened up a garage, after his marriage ran into trouble.

It was in the dusty streets of Karasburg where Bobby came out of his shell after joining the town’s top team Marits United before he immigrated to Windhoek, where he revived his beloved club Marits.

Upon his arrival in the capital, Bobby wasted little time and teamed up with the Moller brothers Louis and Charl, Jan Besssinger and Fred Peterson to form a new soccer team named Marits United, as Bobby would not let go of his childhood team.

The team started playing organised football in then coloured league alongside the likes of Black Spiders, Golden Arrows, Thistles and Burnley United in the old location today Hochlandpark.

As he turned back the clock in the lounge of his well-decorated residence in Khomasdal, Uncle Bob recalled: “Those were the days when we played football for the love of the game. We had two major tournaments annually, during the Easter weekend we would all converge down at the Coast while the final tournament was played in Rehoboth in September every year.”

The 17-year-old Bobby witnessed first hand the brutality of the then South African Apartheid regime during the forced removal of natives from the old location in 1959.

“After we were relocated to Khomasdal from the Old Location – we formed a new league with the late Paul van Harte as Chairman of the newly formed league,” added Uncle Bob.

Bobby’s fairytale relationship with the football institution that was Marits United finally came to an end in 1969 when the football mad player turned administrator stunned his teammates and club officials with his refusal to honour an important league decider against Thistles.

It was the weekend when the star-studded Kaizer Eleven outfit touched down at Eros Airport for their historic two-day tour of South West Africa that finally paved the way for local footballers to ply their trade in the professional ranks across the Orange River. The South Africans were scheduled to play two International friendlies against a Central Invitational Eleven and “Uncle Bob” decided there and then that this occasion was not to be missed.

As fate would have it – the charismatic long-haired Bobby, who resembled Liverpool’s most famous son and Beatles’ front man John Lennon, ended up as a substitute referee in both matches after he was persuaded by the late Herbert Conradie to take up the whistle.

A furious Kaizer Motoung and his brigade bitterly protested the fitness of the appointed match official Coloured Kakololo halfway through the match and were finally granted their wish when the gutsy Uncle Bob lived up to the challenge.

Bobby’s seemingly unending flirtation with township football was not taken kindly by the brainwashed coloured community, which resulted in the defiant young man parting ways with his beloved Marits United Football Club and led to the formation of Atlanta Chiefs.

Together with Peter Riehl, Jan Bessinger and the late Allan van Harte the best coloured footballer to have ever graced the chores of domestic football up to this day, they wasted little time and assembled what would become the toast of Khomasdal football in later years.

Bobby modeled the formation of Atlanta Chiefs on the establishment of Kaizer Eleven and brought in top players from Cape Town such as Willy Rwida, Jeffrey Davids, Raymond “Gogo” Perreira, goal keeper Ronald Wentzel and mercurial midfielder Lionel “Boet” Mathews, current sports editor of the Afrikaans daily Die Republikein.

Several other leading footballers from the townships also joined the fray, with former Eleven Arrows’ speedy winger Tommy Uushona, Steps Neidel, Da Costa and Boetikie Hangula leading the pack.

However, a single bullet from a trigger-happy German national saw the expensively assembled Atlanta Chiefs crimpling like hot cake when the motor mouth Uncle Bob, a self styled Anti-Apartheid guru was shot in the abdomen at the notorious Star Hotel in Khomasdal in 1974 – leading to the natural death of football in Khomasdal.

Upon his recovery, Uncle Bob came out firing on all cylinders and stunned the entire football fraternity when he publicly aligned himself and the Khomasdal Football Association with Swapo – a stance that did not go down exactly well with authorities.

Subsequently, the face of domestic football changed dramatically when Uncle Bob and his troops point-blankly refused to play in the Multi Racial League for whites, coloureds, and darkies.

They adopted the slogan “No Normal Sport in an Abnormal Society” and joined their South African counterparts in the South African Council on Sport (SACOS).

“We were crunched as rebels, denied certain human rights and sponsorships but we stuck to our guns and vowed to emphasize through word and deed that football was indeed about comradeship and remained a member of SACOS until Namibia was free,” said Uncle Bob.

Though Uncle Bob applauded the progress made by the Brave Warriors in recent times – the 65-year-old retired civil servant bemoaned the lack of creative footballers amongst the current crop of players.

“We have to acknowledge the fact that football has changed dramatically but it is really heart-breaking to watch mediocre footballers week in and week out in action, we just don’t have players in the mould of Pele Blaschke, Oscar Mengo, Pius Eigowab, Lemmy Narib, Boet Mathews and the late pair of Allan van Harte and Doc Hadley,” added Uncle Bob.

“In our days, football was more entertaining with players putting lots of emphasis on individual skill and creativity, something that is lacking in modern football even if one look at clubs in the English Premiership – most African players don’t apply the African flair to the maximum with the exception of Arsenal’s Togolese striker Immanuel Adebayor.”

Uncle Bob strongly believes he can still contribute to the development of Namibian football in an advising capacity and urged football administrators and authorities to bury the hatchet in the best interest of Namibian football.

“I still believe people like Hendrik Christiaans and Oscar Mengo have a lot to offer in Namibian football, but petty issues are seriously hampering our progress in this regard,” concluded the tough talking football administrator cum political activist.

Please e-mail your views to: carlos@newera.com.na.

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