By Carlos Kambaekwa
Born in the small mining enclave of Abenab in the Grootfontein area on April Fool’s Day in 1947 – Nandos moved to Windhoek at the age of three with his parents where he later enrolled at the Rhynse Sending Herero Skool in the old location, to become Hochland Park in the intervening years.
It was in the dusty streets of the old location where young Nandos’ goalkeeping prowess took off like a house on fire at the age of ten, playing in the customary two-bob winner takes it all competitions.
Nandos is one of very few players of his generation who graduated from street football straight into first team action after he was snapped up by Tigers at the tender age of 16.
At Tigers, young Nandos teamed up with his elder brother Tives in the star-studded Tigers lineup that included the lightning fast Honnie Ochurub, Onesmus Akwenye, Coloured Kakololo and the departed quartet of Timo Mwetuyela, Ferdinand Akwenye, Syd Urib and Pineas Iyambo.
The old Katutura Stadium, renamed Sam Nujoma stadium in later years, was Tigers’ slaughterhouse with the likes of Orlando Pirates, African Stars and Black Africa always confined to playing second fiddle to the fired-up Tigers as the Blue and White stripped Donkerhoek outfit looked unstoppable at the grassy park (Okahozu).
At the peak of his game, Nandos was without doubt the best net minder in the country and was a marvel to watch with his breathtaking mid-air saves which left many of his opponents speechless.
Adds Nandos: “In one of our many encounters with Orlando Pirates we beat them in front of their own crowd at a packed stadium in Keetmanshoop in the final of a cup competition. I was top of my game stopping everything thrown at me with the late Timo netting the winner in that historic thriller.
“In those days, we never had coaches but I was somehow fortunate because I had this German chirpy who used to graft at Ernst Holtz Outfitters taking me through the ropes at almost every available opportunity,” Nandos fondly remembers.
Nandos represented the South West Africa Invitational Eleven on numerous occasions and once stunned a packed Orlando Stadium in Soweto when he scored directly from a goal kick against a Transvaal Invitation. He was a master in set pieces and outfoxed most of his outfield counterparts with his deadly left foot in dead ball situations.
He still holds the likes of Tommy Uushona, Warick Zimmer, Spokes Tibinyane, Black Kangootui, Eddie Cloete, Lemmy Narib, Pius Eigowab, his former teammate Coloured Kakololo and the late pair of Paul Willemse and Gabes Mupupa in high esteem.
“Eigowab was a hot potato to handle notably when he opted to resort to his trademark bicycle kicks,” said Nandos.
However, it was not always soft pedalling and smooth sailing for the talented goal keeper as he recounted some of the unattractive experiences in his short but illustrious football career.
“Travelling outside town was always a nightmare as we had to make use of an open truck owned by the late Karl Kazondunge,” recalled Nandos.
Pissed off with the apartheid laws and persistent harassment by the Bowker boys – the 27-year-old Nandos resolved to pack his gloves for good and headed for Zambia in August 1974, where he joined Swapo in the fight to liberate Namibia from the South African regime.
Upon his return to his native country, Nandos reunited with his beloved Tigers and managed the team through three successive cup finals before calling it a day after some of the playing staff could no longer keep pace with his army-style management.
Never shy to speak his mind, the long serving Lieutenant Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force minced no words and believes modern players lack discipline, dedication and creativity.
“In our days, there was no camping ahead of big matches but we were still dedicated to the game and played for pride, unlike today’s footballers who are more prone to playing to the gallery.
“Modern players lack the required physical strength and have developed a tendency of trying to walk the ball in the net when the goal is begging,” added Nandos.
Nandos could not resist a parting shot at the manner in which the beautiful game is administered in Namibia and called on football authorities to stop paying lip service to things and to start decentralizing all national teams as football is currently just centered in urban areas.
“The NFA should genuinely involve former players to assist with the development of the game at grassroots level and should also revert back to the old system where trials were held in all corners of the country to identify and unearth raw talent.
“There is also an urgent need for a Shadow Brave Warriors team to allow for the gradual process of integration into the senior national team,” concluded Nandos.
Cometh the Hour Cometh the Man – without a doubt, the name Nandos “The Cat” Mbako will feature prominently in the annals of Namibian football history, simply because whenever Bra Nandos was in mean mood, he had very little peers in the goalkeeping department.
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