Local soccer fans would always remember Isaac “Brown” Amwenye as the gangling footballer who deceived his opponents with his harmless looking body that resembled that of a cabaret dancer, but who possessed dynamite in his forehead.
The former Tigers goal poacher was a very unpredictable footballer who was certainly not blessed with speed and powerful shots as opposed to his peers, but oh boy! Brown was amongst a rare breed of footballers of his generation (apart from the late Ben “Hikuepi” Kauejao) who became a nightmare to opposing goalkeepers and defenders with his deceptive runs into the small box.
The tricky striker developed a habit of scoring goals from tight positions with his head – a technique that’s still lacking in modern soccer.
Here the 57-year old Brown takes you the reader through a passionate journey that was cut short at the ripe age of 35 – courtesy of a combined bone crunching tackle by the Black Africa pair of Bethuel “Five” Hochobeb and Mike “Orutavi” Awaseb in 1985.
By Carlos Kambaekwa.
In several unofficial township polls, be it in bars, pubs and still worse at funerals or whenever the opportunity arises for the self-styled football gurus to go down memory lane – it has been hotly debated as to who was the best header of the spherical ball in the history of local football in years gone by.
While football fans are usually motivated by misplaced loyalty – the most neutral fan would never be able to choose the best between two players of contrasting styles, so to speak.
The late Ben “the Snake” Kauejao packed a mule kick in both legs and could wangle himself out of tight corners and above all, his aerial strength was second to none, but statistics dictates that Brown scored the bulk of his goals with powerful headers from tight angles, much to the dismay of opposing goalkeepers.
Born at Outjo on 17 August 1950 – young Brown started playing football at the tender age of seven in Karasburg, while attending primary school in the southern town after his old man, a cop in the South African Police Force, was transferred to that part of the country in 1957.
Brown found himself in the Old Location the following year where he teamed up with other talented young boys at the all conquering Rhenisch Herero School Soccer team that consisted of talented youngsters such as the legendary Johannes “Kapui” Angula, Hofney “Grey” Umati, Johny Akwenye, George “Kanima” Hoveka, Ngaritungue “Tier” Hoveka, Mannetjie “Manocks” Shivute of Ndilimani fame, Ricky “Utaurua” Katjivirue, Shaka Mbako and Zeb “Mbarinovandu” Tjitemisa.
“In those days we used to play in two-bob challenge games and would chase leather until mama calls, but my football only took off when I moved to Augustineum High School in 1967. I turned out for a team called OV-Land consisting mainly of Oshiwambo-speaking boys and my teammates included well known racing driver Lucas “Aupapa” Hipondoka, David Naulondo, Shaka Mbako and Hofney “Grey” Umati.”
While at Augustineum, Brown preferred spending more time on the tennis court rather than chasing the inflated pigskin unlike many young boys his age. “To be quite honest, the only reason why I preferred playing tennis over the beautiful game was because of the good looking lasses that were always in abundance at the tennis courts and I really enjoyed being in close proximity of those girls.”
Brown got his big break on the football pitch when the late Ferdinand “Ferre” Akwenye could not travel with Tigers to a major tournament in Walvis Bay. “Amos “Kavezeri” Tjombe was the one who introduced me to competitive football after he convinced Tigers officials to take me along in place of Buti Ferre and since that day I never looked back and became a regular in the star-studded Tigers lineup.”
Brown played with a horde of great players at Tigers and is amongst a rare bunch of players to have played with three different generations during his illustrious football career.
“When I arrived at Tigers, we had great players such as the late quartet of Timo Mwetuyela, Joseph “Purikie” Vorster, Johannes “Kapuii” Angula and Ferdinand Akwenye, the Mbako siblings Tiwes and Nandos, Johny Veiko, Honnie Ochurub, Grey Umati, Dakoro, Tommy Uushona, Amos “Superman” Tjombe and Elliot “Om Pau” Hiskia.”
When the old guard retired, Tigers brought in talented youngsters led by the Hiponodka brothers Sekulu and Mentos, Kumi Umati, Fundi “Kiddo” Mbako, Abner Tobias, Gustaf “Bollie” Kandonga, Tommy Schmidt and Silas “Wangaa” Nujoma.
By the time father time called for the aforementioned generation – the evergreen Brown remained defiant and was an integral part of the all conquering Tigers outfit that included the likes of Siegfried “Dale” Stephanus, Johannes “General” Angula, Oubaas Pogisho, Steve Haihambo, Moses “Khanyeza” Straightwolf, Hartmund “Bricks” Angula and Frans “Forester” Nicodemus.
In between, Brown developed itchy feet and had a brief stint with Flames Football Club, a new team that was run along professional lines by the late pair of Felix Kakuenje and Darius Tjakaurua. Flames brought a new dimension to township football and it came as no surprise when the green and gold outfit attracted the cream of footballers to their nest.
Oscar Mengo, Albert Louw, Gotty Geiseb, Simon Nujoma, Asser Mbai and many other talented footballers teamed up with Flames as the team toured then Rhodesia, but Brown missed the trip because his employers Tidar would have none of it and dispatched him to attend a two-week training course in Johannesburg.
Upon his return, Brown played briefly for Flames but he felt unsafe as former teammates at Tigers would lay siege at his house every night after practice sessions to sort him out for jumping ship. He eventually threw in the towel and rejoined his childhood team – much to the delight of the Donkerhoek folk.
Brown was a member of the victorious South West Africa Invitational Eleven that won the provincial Impala Cup in 1974 and paved the way for local footballers to cut their teeth in the South African professional football setup. “We played against Orange Free State in the final at a packed Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg, and won the match comfortably by 3 goals to 1.
Steve “Kalamazoo” Stephanus and the late Albert “Boetie” Louw were the two captains of that team that included great footballers in the mould of Oscar “Silver Fox” Mengo, Japhet “Shapama” Hellao, Eliphas Sabatha, Justus “Kaika” Kuzee, Willem Eichab, Storm, Pius “Garrincha” Eigowab and Hendrik “Doc” Hadley
“The team was managed by the late football guru Herbert Conradie, and trained by Hermann “Pele” Blaschke, who was already an established name with South African glamour football club Kaizer Chiefs at the time.”
Our victory opened the door for the exodus of local footballers who went on to play professional football with top South African teams that saw Mengo and Eigowab joining Chiefs, while Hadley went the opposite direction and signed up with Orlando Pirates.
Brown and two of his teammates at Tigers Puriki and Grey became regular guest players at Atlanta Chiefs (Khomasdal) where the trio enjoyed some success with the Bobby Sissing led outfit. Brown never received a caution or a red card in his entire playing career and he proudly attributes this to calmness and respect for the laws governing the game of football.
“I always kept in mind that one plays against eleven men, against the referee and against the crowd, so what it’s the point of arguing with something that you can’t change.”
His career ended in agony and ecstasy when Tigers beat Black Africa 4-1 in a league match in 1985 at the showground stadium in Windhoek.
“I scored a hat-trick and created the other goal for Steve Haihambo – not knowing that was going to be my last match as fate dictated otherwise. I found myself sandwiched by Bethuel “Five” Hochobeb and Mike Awaseb and came out the worst with damaged knee ligaments.”
Brown singles out the late Johannes “Kapuii” Angula as the greatest footballer of his generation and holds former African Stars’ agile goal keeper Asaria “Ndjiva” Kauami in high esteem.