From the day that young Immanuel “Choice” Kamuserandu, started kicking a football – the ebony skinned boy from Otjiwarongo made waves with a flurry of goals that eventually announced him as a potential goal scorer of note at an early age.
The former African Stars flying winger entertains us with tales on how he was tricked into joining African Stars, together with his home boys Seadog and Kaputji Kuhanga, under the guise of touring the then West Germany – a promise that was never fulfilled.
He might have been the toast of thousands of Stars’ supporters during his heyday – but these days, the 54-year old Kamuserandu resembles a man who has fallen on hard times, with very little to show off as he goes about his daily functions as an eight-to-five merchandiser at a local grocery outlet in his home town.
By Carlos Kambaekwa
The desire to earn recognition in any society, amongst a number of youngsters, has driven many of them to greater heights while some have chosen the wrong path, but Immanuel looks back at his football career with mixed feelings.
Ever since he started playing competitive football at the age of thirteen with other youngsters from the neigbourhood, Kamuserandu, better known as “Choice” amongst the football family, showed exceptional talent and he always stood head and shoulders above his peers.
He teamed up with boys from the Herero School at Otjiwarongo and formed a team called UNESCO Football Club, with the assistance of Seth Kamuruao, Jesaya Andima, Fransfried Kambanda, Ben Nangula, Abed Mbako and the Kuhanga siblings Gerson Kaputji and Seadog, under the tutorship of teacher Engelhard Karuhumba.
The team toured places like Waterberg, and played against other school teams from Grootfontein and Okahandja as well, but it was at Augustineum where young “Choice” started to attract attention.
“I was persuaded by Wilson ‘Chippa’ Mberirua to join a school team going by the name of Windhoek City that predominantly catered for the Otjiherero-speaking students at the campus.”
He also played for his home team Life Fighters during the school holidays where he teamed up with other established names such as Kumbee”Jaiz” Mbakera, Pottie Mbarandongo, James Tjihuiko, Kanomora “Number” Ngavetene, Freddy “Skelly” Kavetuna, George “Kongunja” Kasuto, Abraham “Abe” Katire, Itumba Murorua, Rikua Kahorongo and the late pair of Tepa Muriua and Alphons “Tjikoriho” Njembo.
“That was a very strong team and we used to hammer visiting teams on our home ground and our good showing on the field eventually led to the bulk of the players being snapped up by some of the best teams in the country with African Stars the obvious destination.”
While at Augustineum, Choice would turn out for Stars as a guest player where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Amos “Kavezeri” Tjombe, Mike “Kangova” Pack, Skade Kandjiriomuini, Phillip “Kapundi” Hei, Zeb “Mbarinovandu” Tjitemisa, Moses “Cheese” Kavikairirua, Manfred “Bush” Menjengua, Gabriel “Kirrie” Tjituaiza, Bethuel “Ace” Tjirera, Smody “Katjimune” Kamaheke, Oscar “Silver Fox” Mengo and the departed pair of Justus “Kaika” Kuzee and Ben “Hikuepi” Kauejao.
However, young Choice could not resist the smell of the Atlantic Ocean and found himself at sea level together with his home boys Kaputji and Seadog Kuhanga, where they put up tent with Walvis Bay glamour football club Blue Waters.
The trio’s arrival at Blue Waters brought a new dimension to their game and the coastal town outfit became a fearful force amongst its competitors.
“We had talented and committed footballers in that team – Ranga Lucas, Riva Jakonia, Jerry Shikongo, Lemmy Lazarus, Pari Shekupe, Samuel ‘Bonetti’ Neilenge and Lucas ‘Aupapa’ Hipondoka. That lineup was untouchable and very few teams in the country could match us at full strength.
“While still enjoying life at the coast, we woke up to a surprise visit one morning when the quartet of Asser Mbai, Willy Tjongarero, Oscar and Number Ngavetene paid us an unusual visit and summoned us to a secret gathering where we were boldly informed that Stars had received an invitation to tour Germany for several friendly internationals.
“The four gentlemen told us in no uncertain terms that the primary aim was to send a strong team composed of players from the Otjiherero clan and we fell for the trick and that’s how we ended up at Stars.”
Nothing came of the promised land of honey and milk but such was Stars’ dominance in domestic football that the trio never really bothered about exploring the skies en route to Europe for the promised tour in the intervening years.
“I played my first match for Stars against Ramblers at the Windhoek Showgrounds way back in 1977, and we went on to win that match by 3 goals to 1, where I netted a brace and quickly won the admiration of the usually hard-to-please Stars’ supporters.”
Choice was a prominent team member of the first ever mixed-race team, that represented South West Africa in the annual Currie Cup Provincial Tournament in Port Elizabeth in 1977.
“There were very few white players in that team and I can only recall the names of Hugh ‘Bobby’ Craddock, Hasso Ahrens and Ian Wood, with the late Vic Lovell as our Head Coach.”
Other well known names in the team were Oscar, Kaputji, Ambrossius Vyff, Hendrik “Doc” Hadley, Albert “Hoonjo” Tjihero, Hans “Alu” Hummel, Albert and Hannes Louw, Leva Awaseb, Asaria “Ndjiva” Kauami, Steve Haihambo and Siegfried “Dale” Stephanus.
“We fared poorly in that tournament because of bad weather and we could physically also not compete against those big guys, though we beat them hands down for skill and speed and to worsen matters – we picked up a lot of injuries to key players that resulted in the team being eliminated in the early stages of the competition.”
Choice was part and parcel of the African Stars all-conquering team that won the double in the very first multi-racial league in 1977, and became an integral part of the invincible Stars outfit that went unbeaten in knock-out competitions for a considerable time in domestic football.
With very little hesitation, Choice hails his former teammates Mengo and Kauami as the greatest footballer and goalkeeper of all times. “Those two were absolutely phenomenal and could win games for us with just one moment of brilliance.”
He strongly believes the unceremonious departure of Mengo and the Tjihero brothers from the Stars nest had contributed largely to the team’s demise – though many diehards might like to think otherwise.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow, but let’s face it, those guys were the spine of the team and since they left – the recruitment process became a mess with those tasked to carry on the torch resorting to signing mediocre players who could not even match the expectations of supporters.”
Choice says those in charge of the team made a serious blunder by putting too much faith in the tested and tried at the expense of young and success-hungry players – hence the team’s fading fortunes.