Uncle Bob steered Arsenal to greatness

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WINDHOEK – The inevitable marriage between old foes Arsenal and Civics was to prove a huge success as the Civilians went on to become trendsetters in domestic football changing the face of local football for good.

Civics’ amazing professional approach accompanied by historic accolades that saw the young Civilians outfit claim three back-to-back league titles – a feat that has so far only been emulated by current Namibian champions Black Africa in recent years.

Spearheaded by arguably two of the country’s most gifted footballers in the shape of stylish attacking midfielder Elgin Itumeleng Masite, aka “Sputla”, and flamboyant playmaker Devon “Vlam” Jansen, better known as Flamero de Janeiro among his circle of friends – Arsenal became the average football fan’s darling in the predominantly coloured township (Khomasdal) in the mid-80s – dominating the game with their much-adored style of carpet football.

Arsenal competed alongside rivals Swansea and to a certain extent Katutura outfits Sorento Bucks Cosmos and Benfica, a team boasting a large contingent of highly skilful footballers from neighbouring South Africa, notably Upington.

Under the stewardship of the uncompromising Uncle Bob, Arsenal and many other teams in the Khomasdal residential area refused point blank to compete in the multi-racial Central League under the auspices of South West Africa Football Association (Swafa).

A man of strict principals and a stalwart unwavering Swapo supporter during the height of apartheid, Uncle Bob’s motto was always: “We cannot play normal sport in an abnormal society,” as a result of the skewed apartheid laws and segregation that kept darkies and ‘larneys’ at arms’ length.

Arsenal campaigned vigorously in the competitive Khomasdal Football Association (KFA) under the Freedom Charter of the South African Soccer Federation – an affiliate of SACOS. The Khomasdalers would tour South Africa on numerous occasions to test their skills against strong opposition from various provinces in that country.
Incumbent Brave Warriors team manager Tim “TY” Isaacs, known as “Teenage” after the legendary Kaizer Chiefs dribbling wizard, Teenage Dladla, for his silky dribbling skills, teamed up with the late versatile journo Bra “Des’ Basson under the tutelage of the wide-awake Uncle Bob to steer the ship, as the trio masterfully turned the young Arsenals into formidable competitors.

Several youngsters from the notorious Bethlehem neighbourhood in Khomasdal, an enclave exclusively tailored for the influx of migrants of mixed race from the Northern Cape, South Africa, were roped in.

Talented youngsters such as former Ramblers and Brave Warriors skipper Tollie van Wyk, Jan and Willem Cloete, Yves Townes, Donald Diergaardt, Brian van Staden, Vlam Jansen, Leon Cloete, Wenn van der Colf, Karel Mouton, Barracks Danster, Ralf Blaauw and Mac Camm were to form the spine of the new outfit.

During an impressive stint in the popular Khomasdal League, where they reigned supreme alongside Swansea, Arsenal won almost everything there was to be won in the game of football.

A significant chunk of Arsenal players were part and parcel of the star-studded Count Pushkin Vodka Central Namibia Football Association Invitational side that won the coveted South African Inter Provincial ‘B” Section Zonal Tourney on home soil in 1986.

The hosts only suffered one defeat at the hands of the visiting Namaqualand (2-1) during the entire marathon competition.

In later years, the club recruited the nimble-footed midfielder Sputla Masite from Soweto, South Africa. In addition, tough-tackling stocky right-back Festus Goseb also arrived to bolster the defence alongside the highly rated Tollie van Wyk, while Seun Doeseb also joined the fray.

As fate would have it, Arsenal’s fairy-tale run in domestic football was brought to a premature end after the team was disbanded to amalgamate with eternal rivals Civics, as the new football structures in Independent Namibia did not cater for more than two teams from Khomasdal with the mysterious arrival of Liverpool (Okahandja) to claim a stake in the country’s flagship league.

Recently, Arsenal held a memorable well-attended reunion on a farm near Windhoek and, according to sources close to the team, plans are underway to revive the former darlings of Khomasdal football to resume its social operations in an effort to plough back into the community.

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