Astute athlete, radio announcer and traditional chief – inch by inch Bertholdt Tjiundje jogs his memory

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By Carlos ‘CK’
Kambaekwa

WINDHOEK – Born in the remote village of Aroams, Aminuis, on December 7, 1944, the calculated youngster was always destined for greater heights.

Tjiundje spent his formative years in Otjiue Tjombungu (Otjinene district) under the stewardship of his granny but retreated to his native village (Aroams) when his old lady took a bow from the game of life.

The gangling midfield-cum-forward made his mark in domestic football with the star-studded Augustineum High School team before joining forces with boyhood club African Stars, aka Okaserandu in the late 60s.
He announced his arrival with near faultless displays during the highly competitive exhibition matches and marathon knockout tournaments in the absence of organised league structures during the apartheid era.

Barely out of his pair of shorts, the sports-crazy multi-talented Tjiundje started chasing an inflated piece of leather with other youngsters at the Rietquelle Primary School, in Aminuis.

He was to become the traditional steward in the holding midfielder role operating slightly behind the forwards in the outdated old-fashioned 1-5-5 system, allowing marauding fullbacks more attacking options to score vital goals.

“In those days, football was the only recreational activity for native folks and almost all the young boys took an immediate liking to the beautiful game. We were somehow blessed that we had in our midst schoolteachers who were great footballers themselves. They took us through the ropes in the latest techniques of the game and we benefited greatly,” reveals Tjiundje with a wry smile.

Former Juvenile Football Club lethal goal poacher Julius Ipumbu Katjepunda teamed up with fellow schoolteacher, Urbanus Ndjavera, to take the youngsters under their wing – laying the foundation for young Tjiundje and his teammates to establish themselves as formidable athletes.

Apart from his football prowess, the likeable easygoing Tjiundje tore his competitors apart on the athletic track showing them a clean pair of heels in the 100-, 200- and 400-metres sprints.

Apart from his astonishing achievements on the track, Tjiundje was a mean puncher in the boxing ring, packing dynamite in his fists and always sending his opponents to the canvas. However, his romance with boxing was abruptly abbreviated by a fractured hand paving the way for him to fully concentrate on the spherical object.

The lanky winger rose to prominence when he enrolled at the Augustineum High School near Okahandja to further his academic aspirations. It was at this institution that he found himself in the company of other equally talented athletes, who formed the spine of the all-conquering Augustineum football team.

“We assembled a very good side and competed fiercely against the likes of St Josephs Secondary School (Dobra) and other established football teams from outside such as Tigers, African Stars, and did fairly well.”
His excellent performance did not go unnoticed as Stars came calling for his services and as they say, the rest is history. Tjiundje soon established himself as a vital cog in the Reds’ engine room.

In a bid to revive the ailing fortunes of red-striped outfit’s ailing fortunes, Tjiundje was literally thrown into the lion’s den, teaming up with James-Vetoorora Muundjua (goalkeeper), George Hoveka, Mike Pack, Floyd Maharero, Scage Kandjiriomuini, Usiel Tjijenda, Tjatjitua Katjiteo, Dawid Tjiroze, Meundju Kakunde, Phillip Hei, Theo Ndisiro, Petrus Mazenge, Coskey Ngaizuvare, Raonga Mbaeva, Alex Vekarapi, Ripuree Hoveka, Epson Kapuire (omburu ja pako) and the Tjombe siblings Amos and Tumbee to keep the sinking ship afloat.
Tjiundje played a crucial role in keeping the legacy of the team alive before passing the baton to the “Golden Generation” of Kaika Kuzee, Oscar Mengo, Ben Kauejao, Bush Menjengua, Asser Mbai, Kierie Tjituaiza, Albert Tjihero, Nicky Kandjou, Babes Kangombe, Smody Kamaheke, Ace Tjirera and Merino Kandonga.

And while stalwarts Kavezeri, Skade, Floyd, George, Kapuindi, Obed, Tjizembua and Rhoo inspired the Reds’ progress, Tjiundje was indeed the final piece.

Apart from putting in some splendid performances week in and week out, Tjiundje never really managed to lay his hands on any significant silverware during his football career with the red-shirted Stars. Though he featured in as many finals of which he has lost count.
In his parting shot, Tjiundje reserved a word of applause for the local media, particularly the Otjiherero indigenous radio station, for its tireless efforts to promote and develop sports across the length and breadth of Namibia.

“Sport has a great potential to unite people from all walks of life and it needs to be vigorously utilised as a tool to ease tensions among the country’s inhabitants. I will therefore humbly request local authorities and other stakeholders to organise more recreational activities if we are to keep young people on the straight and narrow, away from the evils of society.”

He also calls for government’s involvement urging lawmakers to take sports seriously, notably football by availing more money in order to take the game to the next level.

Although he hung up his football togs while still at the pinnacle of his flourishing football career, the easygoing former educator cherishes some of his memorable moments on the football field.

Without hesitation, he does not hide his admiration for the amazing ball skills of the late Times Mwetuyela, Gabes Mupupa, Albert Louw, Lemmy Narib, describing the quartet as the finest footballers of his generation.
Tjiundje was among the very first indigenous radio announcers.

He lined up alongside former Black Africa winger Black Kangootui, Marisa Uandara, Japhta Mbaoua Tjatjitua, Maxie Nguendu Mbaha, Joseph Kahivere, Kuzeeko Kangueehi, Adele Kaitjindi, Tupu Ndisiro and in later years, the late Kaomo Kahorongo and Asser Mbai.
Nicknamed “Inch by Inch” by his primary schoolteachers and adoring teammates during his formative years on the football pitch, the dribbling wizard boasts an impressive resume that includes coaching the Waterberg Primary School football team alongside the late Maheu Kahere.

The retired schoolteacher now lives peacefully at his home village Okomboha, in Omaheke where he doubles as a successful communal farmer and traditional chief of the Ovaherero in the vast Aminuis constituency.

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