They say it takes a special kind of a person to become a household name at Black Africa, but Benjamin “Spokes” Tibinyane can still look back on his illustrious football career with the Black and Red stripped Gemengde-based outfit with a great deal of pride.
I’ve known this gentleman for donkeys’ years since my Kamashona days and believe you me, as a laaitie I’d grown extremely scary of Brra Spokes when I was just watching Black Africa in action with Brra Spokes marshalling the defence – dishing out those bone-crunching tackles at the old Katutura Stadium.
At that stage, many of us never realized what a prominent role Brra Spokes would play in shaping the face of Namibian football and to set the tone for the literally unsurpassed success of Black Africa in later years.
There are some tears of joy and ecstasy as the 62-year old former Black Africa tough-as-steak defender walks down memory lane with New Era Sports to recall a career that was prematurely ended by a nagging knee injury at the ripe age of 32.
By Carlos Kambaekwa
Born at the R.K Mission in Epukiro on the 15th of July 1947, Spokes started chasing leather at the age of 9 in the dusty streets of the old location in Windhoek but it was only at Dobra that his football career started to flourish.
Brra Spokes teamed up with other youngsters his age and immediately found himself in the company of Gotthard “Black” Kangootui, Simon Mogane, and the late pair of Adam Lamberth and Joseph Gonteb.
The youngsters’ exploits on the football pitch did not go unnoticed and were soon snapped up by Black Africa to cut their teeth in organized football, but according to Spokes, it took Black Africa seven solid years to become a major force to be reckoned with in domestic football.
“In those days, Tigers, Orlando Pirates, Blue Waters, Namib Woestyn, Eleven Arrows, Rocco Swallows and Black Morocco Chiefs from Otjiwarongo were the more established clubs and dominated the local football scene,” recalled Brra Spokes.
“We were just a mid-table side until I personally persuaded the late Albert ‘Boetie’ Louw from Tsumeb to come and join Black Africa here in Windhoek, and from that moment Black Africa became a different kettle of fish as we started making serious inroads in the domestic football setup.”
The first ever tournament that carried prize money was played at Walvis Bay with a purse of 150-00 Rand at stake, but I can’t recall who won that particular tournament.
“In 1966, we received an invitation by the then President of the South African Football Association Bethuel Morolo to play several exhibition matches in South Africa that would change the face of football in South West Africa and it took us three days per train to reach Johannesburg.
“So, no wonder we were hammered 7-2 by Pimville United Brothers in our opening match, but we soon regrouped and put up a better showing in subsequent matches against several provincial invitation teams, including two historic matches against teams from the Federation League that was dominated by Coloureds and Indians.”
The six-week tour saw the South West Africa Invitational Eleven touring places such as Bloemfontein, Hammanskraal, Benoni and Durban.
Brra Spokes maintains that team was very strong because it was selected strictly on merit after trials which included teams from all four regions – Central, West, North and South – with Joseph Goliath the only Southern representative in that formidable lineup.
There were nine players from Tigers during the trials and only three of them made it, and that trio included the late Timo Mwetuyela, Nandos Mbako and Coloured Kakololo.
Brra Spokes could not contain his joy when recalling the turning point in Black Africa’s fortunes.
“Like I’ve said earlier on, it took us seven years to become a formidable outfit and that era was masterminded by the arrival of Pius ‘Garrincha’ Eigowab, Bethuel ‘Five’ Hochobeb, Willy Katire, Laurence ‘Vossie’ van Wyk, Hassie Mingeri and Stu Damaseb amongst the crop of youngsters who joined the club from Dobra.
“Up to this day, I still maintain that was the best combination Black Africa ever had and still don’t believe there would ever be such a team again in the annals of Namibian football – we were unbeaten for 18 months, so show me any statistics of any team in modern football that can maintain such a winning streak,” boasted Brra Spokes.
Brra Spokes was not the fastest of defenders but his positional play was second to none and his timely tackles instilled fear into opposing attackers. However, he regards the speedy Tommy Uushona, Lemmy Narib, Oscar Mengo and the late pair of Timo Mwetuyela and Ben Kauejao as tricky customers.
Brra Spokes bemoans the standard of modern football and blames it on coaches whom he accuses of restricting the natural individual flair of African footballers from expressing themselves.
“Football has become too technical and very much one dimensional these days with players not given the required freedom to play their normal game without the fear of losing ball possession – football has become too commercial.”
Unlike many footballers of yesteryear who feel they are being excluded from decision-making in modern football, Spokes admitted there is very little retired footballers can offer because football has changed a lot since their playing days.
“Maybe we can lend a hand here and there in the form of talent scouts but more than that, I think it will be a bit unrealistic to suggest that we still have a role to play in modern football.”