The word Tsotsi by definition is a Black South African boy who is capable of producing a sharp object (okapi) at the slightest provocation.
However, Willem “Tsotsi ” Afrikaner aka Tostao’s only similarity with Tsotsi-heid is his extra-ordinary “groot kop” and serious look that would even make the hardest criminal think twice before getting within close proximity of the former Orlando Pirates hard tackling defender.
These days Bra Tso is a pale shadow of the footballer that used to instill fear into his opponents as he struggles to keep hunger at bay after a broken leg abbreviated his glorious football career.
Carlos Kambaekwa caught up with the 51-year old Tostao, who now resembles a man who has gone the full circle of life.
Unlike most of his peers who talk with a twinkle in their eyes when recalling the good old days of football, Tsotsi is a bitter fellow and seems to be cursing his association with the beautiful game.
“My friend, I’ve lost everything just because of football via my beloved team Orlando Pirates. I dropped out of school because I preferred on the field action rather than spending my precious time paging through books in pursuit of a decent education” Recalls Tsotsi with tears running freely down his ageing cheeks.
Tsotsi started chasing leather at a very early age and was a member of the all-conquering Orlando Pirates feeding team Orlando Five, a team composed of young footballers from the Damara/Nama section in the Katutura location in the early seventies.
The bulk of players in that line up was a product of the Rhenisch Nama School in Katutura, which produced talented footballers amongst them: Daniel Koopman, Willem Eichab, Ernst “Topio” Afrikaner, Johannes ‘Pinani” Muinjo, Herman “Harry” Eichab and the late pair of Johannes “Vaaitjie ” Aperpo and Pedro Skrywer.
“We played in several tournaments around the country and were very popular amongst the lasses as we played an entertaining brand of football that saw us becoming the toast of football fanatics in places such as Mariental, Keetmanshoop and Gobabis
Tsotsi’s exploits on the football pitch did not go unnoticed and as anticipated, the young defender was snapped up by Pirates at the tender age of 18 where he made his debut against African Stars in that ill-fated match at the Katutura Municipal Sport Ground, next to the Katutura Magistrate Court.
“It was my first match in the black and white colours of Pirates and I was really fired up to impress the coaching staff and reward them back, but my debut for the Ghosts turned out very nasty because pandemonium broke out after the late Izak “Hoops” Brown unintentionally kicked Stars’ left winger Katjimune “Smody” Kamaheke in the face with one of his trademark dangerous acrobatic executions.
“The Hereros would have none of that and started bombarding us with all sorts of objects prompting us to take to our heels for cover. I still remember that day very well when the late duo of Ou Leyden Naftalie and Geiter Namaseb was trapped in the crossfire and got seriously injured”.
Tsotsi played alongside great footballers at Pirates in the mould of Michael Pienaar senior, Ismael “Lemmy” Narib, Matheus “Growwes” Namaseb, John Awarab, Bassieman Jimmy-Naruseb, Willem Eichab, Daniel Koopman, Thomas Losper, Abel Nero and the late Hans Dios “Zebo” Engelbrecht.
“Black Africa used to be our biggest enemy with Bethuel “Five” Hochobeb a tricky customer to deal with on the field of play. They also had other good players like George Martin and Lucky Boonstander, who was probably one of the greatest midfielders of his generation”.
Tostao also speaks with much admiration of SKW’ lanky left winger Wolfgang Fleischammer, Siggy Anderson and African Stars’ terrible twins Gerson “Kaputji” Kuhanga and Immanuel “Marques” Kamuserandu.
“The player who really gave me sleepless nights was without doubt Fleischammer. He was a hot potato to handle and ironically, my football career ended through one of our countless tussles when he fell on top of my knee during the ill fated Mainstay Cup final between Pirates and SKW in 1979”.
Despite his consistency for Pirates – Tsotsi was always overlooked by national selectors and only tested international football on two rare occasions when he was chosen for the South West Africa Invitation against the visiting Morocco Swallows and African Wanderers respectively, where he played a blinder.
“After the knee injury against SKW, I spent six months on the sidelines with screws inserted in my knee and never really recovered fully from that incident. I decided to call it quits while still at the pinnacle of my football career”.
With tears swelling in his eyes for the umpteenth time during our 45-minute or so interview – Tsotsi says Pirates never made any move to compensate him for the career threatening injury suffered while on duty for his childhood team.
“Up to this day, I’ve never received a blue cent from Pirates to cover part of my medical bills or any other assistance in monetary terms and I’m shivering to think as to what would happened to me the day I depart from this world because I seriously doubt whether Pirates will cough up for my burial”
However, the tough tackling defender is adamant he holds no grudges against Pirates and says once a Pirate always a Pirate. “I will never leave Pirates because they are my team, my entire family is Pirates and my late mother used to be a diehard supporter of the Ghosts”.
He says when days are dark friends are few, but is quick to mention the names of his former colleagues who always stop a few dollars in his hand whenever they meet.
“I must really doff my hat for the likes of Ou Pienaar senior, Lemmy, Hans “Alu” Hummel and Fly Damaseb”.
The 51-year old Tsotsi is earning a living by doing odd jobs – renovating houses in the surrounding areas but says the business is not profitable because his customers are not willing to cough up.
“My Broer, the Damara and Nama clan are not willing to pay decent money for services rendered – maybe if I was doing business with other tribes I would have been able to make a decent living, but now I just have to roll with the punches and take whatever comes my way to make ends meat”.
He says modern footballers lack respect and are not committed to the game as opposed to years gone by and attributes this scenario to heavy drinking amongst the current crop of footballers.
“In our days, we had great players such as the late dribbling wizard Norbertus “Norries” Goraseb, Hendrik “Doc” Hadley, Ambrosius Vyff, and Oscar “Silver Fox” Mengo who was in a class of his own”.
Tostao singles out Alfred “Juku” Tjazuko, Lucky Boonstander and Mike Hans as exceptional footballers who could have easily played professional football elsewhere had it not been for the South African apartheid laws.