Inside the Aged – Ode to an unsung hero, gone too soon

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Erich “#Kari-Axa” Lamperth, highly gifted but unfulfilled 1956 – 1986. The late Erich Lamberth was considered by many as a highly gifted footballer who could have played professional football abroad had he been born in Independent Namibia.   

  
IN years gone by, Namibia has produced a significant number of great and intelligent centre backs and this is where the names of the following footballers come to mind. 

The likes of Steve Stephanus, Albert Tjihero, Ranga Lucas, Stu Damaseb, Mentos Hipondoka, Gunter Hellinghausen, Salathiel Ndjao, Tollie van Wyk, Bimbo Tjihero, Nico Hindjou, Mike Classen and Mohammed Ouseb were doubtlessly in a class of their own.

The above-mentioned bunch was not just your average ball robbing defenders who instill fear in their opponents with bone-crunching tackles, these were blokes who played football with flair, arrogance and above all, intelligence. However, former Black Africa protégé, one Erich “#Kari-Axa” Lamperth, was arguably the most polished centre back. The bulky youngster had the potential to surpass his more celebrated peers had it not been for the South African Apartheid system that rushed him to pack his bags and leave his native land.

Local football lovers were robbed of an opportunity to witness firsthand the exploits and immerse talent possessed by the lanky centre back, “#Kari-Axa, who stole the hearts of many football followers including incumbent Namibian Prime Minister, Dr Hage Geingob, during the liberation struggle, in Zambia. New Era Sport reflects on the abbreviated but colourful football journey of #Kari-Axa. 

By Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa

 

WINDHOEK – As a young boy growing up in the dusty streets of the notorious Katutura township during the height of apartheid, #Kari-Axa was like all at the time, football crazy and would play football on his way to school with his siblings and other boys from well-to-do families, who were privileged to be schooled at more superior schools in the neigbouring Khomasdal residential area.

He was born to a football crazy family and his genes dictated that he would be a footballer of note as his father Adam was a founding member and valuable footballer with undisputed Namibian champions Black Africa Football Club in his heyday.

In addition, his elder brothers Sirigus and Ben also played alongside him for the Gemengde-based outfit although it was the strongly built and calculated #Kari-Axa who looked to be the real deal as he showed talent way belying his tender age.

The lanky defender came to prominence when he enrolled at the St Joseph’s Secondary School (Dobra) north east of Windhoek in 1973.

He joined a football club on the campus going by the name of Black Magic and quickly established himself as a formidable centre back. His obvious lack of pace and laid back approach fooled many of his opponents but his rock solid defensive ability sent shivers running riot in the bellies of would-be opponents.

At Black Magic FC, he played alongside well-established footballers that included Alex Kapenaina, Siegried Tjiho, Gerros Xoagub, Sandro Ndjahera and Meester Willem Hans.

In only his second year at Dobra, #Kari-Axa was drafted into the school’s second strings where he gave a good account of himself to cement a permanent place before gaining promotion to the school’s first team in subsequent years.

“Erich was a highly gifted footballer, a soft-spoken friendly chap, a true gentleman in the true sense of the word but on the field of play, he was a cool and collected libero (No 5), a calculated defender with good distribution skill and could also head the ball accurately.

“It is well documented secret that he lacked pace but he made up with his near faultless and calculated timing of tackles,” describes former team-mate at Dobra, Blue Karimbue.

It was not long before #Kari-Axa graduated to the next level of his flourishing football career and his inevitable next destination was his boyhood team Black Africa, where he quickly established himself as a regular starter in the team’s star-studded lineup.

His arrival at Black Africa’s first team coincided with that of talented youngsters brought in to bolster the ageing squad, joining forces with the trio of Joseph “Mombakies” Eiseb, Hannes Louw and Alacatz Kurivera.

His modern style of defending and launching attacks from the back changed the entire complex of BA’s playing style. The gangling youngster brought a new dimension to the team’s style of play and he unsurprisingly became the toast of BA’s usually hard to please fans while he also attracted the admiration of football followers in general.

As fate would have it, fed up with the continued harassment by the South African apartheid forces, #Kari-Axa skipped the country only to resurface in Maun, Botswana in 1976 after the student riots.

He found himself holed up in the refugee camp at the Prison Yard under the auspices of the Botswana authorities and this is where he hooked up with what would become his closest buddy, Fred Goeieman.

To while away time, Namibian refugees would indulge in the beautiful game of football – playing against local teams and prison clubs. His next stop was Zambia where he found refuge at the Old Farm Camp near Lusaka, before relocating to the Swapo Military Training Camp, New Oshatotwa.

At New Oshatotwa he found himself in the company of fellow repatriates Immanuel Naobeb, Mice Sarob, Joel Gariseb, Simon Goliath, Mbunga Hoveka, Gabriel Gariseb, Japan Isaacs, Ben Motinga and Salmon Garoeb.

In August, #Kari-Axa left for Lusaka to be enrolled at the popular United Nations Institute for Namibia (UNIN) under the stewardship of Hage Geingob.

His arrival at UNIN was just what the good doctor ordered as he was quickly drafted into the first team, where he rubbed shoulders with well known legal practitioner Titus Mbaeva, Fred Goeieman and Gabes Gariseb.

“We only competed against teams from the Zambian lower leagues, because for security reasons, we could not play football freely at neutral venues nevertheless, football in Zambia was highly competitive in those days,” says Goeieman.

“We assembled a decent squad that could compete fiercely as can be attested by our countless encounters against Kenneth Kaunda Foundation Football Club, Arakan Barracks FC under the wing of the Zambian Defense Force, University of Zambia and Evelyn Hone College.

“Our teams were laden with a significant number of great footballers such as Zondi Amadhila, Lemmy Lazarus, Lohmeir Angula, Jason Kayala-Haufiku, Willem ‘Bizzah’ Basson, Petrus Damaseb, Thomas Eiseb, Hans Classen, Kalla Gertze, Benny Petrus and many others but Erich was a complete footballer and the most adored player in the squad.
inside-the-aged“That boy stood head and shoulders above the rest and was arguably the toast of the elders to the extent that he was handsomely rewarded for his outstanding performance on the pitch when Hage Geingob bought him a brand new pair of Adidas soccer boots after one of his excursions in America.

“#Kari-Axa was posted to the Swapo Refugee Camp in Lubango, Angola where he commenced duties as a schoolteacher while continuing to play football for the Defense Headquarters football team.

Though details surrounding his death remain sketchy, #Kari-Axa, is presumed to have blown his last breath in Lubango, Angola in 1986, aged 29. We salute this son of the soil, may his soul rest in eternal piece.

 

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