Mike ‘Orutavi’ Awaseb, a Godsend for BA

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Former Black Africa Football Club defensive kingpin Mike Awaseb, was one of very few footballers from the notorious Dolam enclave in Katutura, who defied tradition by jumping ship from Pirates (Dolam) to join a rival team – much to the chagrin of the perceived permanently hot-headed (aggressive) Pirates diehards.

Although his career initially took off at the robust gold and black outfit (Pirates Dolam) during his formative years on the football field, it was at Gemengde-based outfit Black Africa where the likable towering fullback rose to prominence.

Certainly not the quickest off the mark, Awaseb’s well-timed tackles, vision, excellent ball distribution, great ball control and aerial power gave him a slight edge over his opponents to the extent that adoring African Stars’ supporters baptised him “Orutavi” (Tower) – a name that stuck to this day.

Mike was your typical zonal footballer in the modern game. He could easily adapt to situations and transform to a different entity on the field of play as dictated by circumstances and pattern of the game.

He was also a proven dead-ball specialist who was always entrusted with the difficult and nerve-racking responsibility of converting penalty kicks ahead of seasoned strikers and silky midfielders.

New Era Sport catches up with the humorous beanpole former Black Africa defender, as he relates his journey in the beautiful game and why he left boyhood team Pirates (Dolam) to join forces with Namibia’s most-decorated football club Black Africa 

Windhoek

Like many footballers of his generation, Mike Awaseb was born in Windhoek’s Old Location on March 22, 1957, and grew up chasing the inflated pigskin in the dusty streets of the Old Location.

With virtually non-existent recreational facilities and football the only pastime for young Bantu (blacks) boys during the height of apartheid in the then South West Africa (SWA) during the mid-60s, Awaseb got hooked to the beautiful game at an early age and would play football whenever the chance presented itself.

As circumstances would dictate, Bra Mike was obliged by tradition to ply his trade with boyhood team Pirates (Dolam) as an upcoming talented footballer.

He teamed up with the likes of Erich Hanstein, Moles Owoseb, Brazello Hoaseb and many other highly gifted young footballers from that neck of the woods, as the gold and black outfit bamboozled their opponents with their robust approach in the popular knockout tournaments.

However, it was at the Cornelius Goraseb High School in Khorixas where Awaseb was to command respect as an athlete of note. Apart from carving himself a place in the school’s first football side, he also turned out for local club Mini Shadows where he excelled as a no-nonsense defender.

In the intervening years, Awaseb alongside some of his more celebrated schoolmates Hans Haraseb, George Gariseb, Percy Tjazerua, Bokassa and the Namaseb siblings, Issy and Manfred, found themselves reunited at the Martin Luther High School (MLH) where the youngsters formed a deadly combination in the MLH senior football team.

Playing and rubbing shoulders with accomplished athletes rubbed off on Awaseb’s football prowess and he would plough the experience gained while playing away from home back at his beloved Pirates whenever he was home during the school holidays.

“You must bear in mind that in those days, many football clubs did not have qualified football [coaches] and it was left for some of the senior players to take their teammates through the ropes during training sessions.

“So, when I cam back from school, I would take the players under my wing trying to teach them the finer points of football which I learnt from qualified coaches at school level,” reveals Awaseb.

However, his new-found fame and expertise did not go exactly well down the throats of some of his mentors, who felt threatened and completely undermined by this tiny young boy who grew up “in front of their eyes”.

“There was this one streetwise toughie going by the name of //Khoites, he was a dictator and would [not] take kindly to my instructions and new way of thoughts and doing things.

“He told me in no uncertain terms where to get off – threatening me with physical assault. So, I decided there and then to seek greener pastures elsewhere.”

Luckily for Awaseb, he did not have to look further for a new club as his old buddies, Erich-Kari-Axab and his brother Serugus (Serious), persuaded him to join forces with family team Black Africa where their old man Adam was a founder member.

Awaseb joined the star-studded Black Africa outfit where he was to enjoy unsurpassed success – overseeing close to three different generations during a stunning 14-year stint with the club.

Upon his arrival, Awaseb partnered established defenders in the heart of BA’s rearguard led by the great Stu Damaseb, Corrie Uri-Khob and Vossie van Wyk.

Awaseb played alongside the legendary Albert Louw, Joseph “Mombakkies” Eiseb, Safe Kuruseb, Alphews Gawaseb, Rusten Mogane, Naftalie “Cakes” Noabeb, Mike Hans, George Martin, Lawrence Uri-Khob, Pius “Garrincha” Eigowab, Five Hochobeb, Lucky Boostander, Hannes Louw, Anton “Alacatz” Kurivera, Steven “Falcao” Hochobeb and many other greats.

His valuable contribution propelled Black Africa to back-to-back wins in the now defunct coveted Mainstay Cup at the expense of Grootfontein outfit Chelsea FC in 1982 and 1983.

Awaseb’s unmatched consistency at the left-back position did not go unnoticed. He was duly rewarded when he was selected to represent his native land in the prestigious South African Provincial Tournament, the annual Currie Cup in Johannesburg in 1984.

“We assembled a very good team and if I’m not mistaken, that team was considered the best South West Africa (SWA) side ever to represent the country at that level. We could have won the tournament easily had our goalkeeper (Jean Ward) not got injured.

“Sadly, we got eliminated in the semi-finals but [that took] nothing away from us, we played some great football up to that stage. Unfortunately, we suffered an assortment of serious injuries to key playing personnel because teams like Border and the Army were very robust.”

Although a bit long in the tooth when Namibia got her independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990, Awaseb was still playing active football.

However, he missed out when BA won the inaugural edition of the Windhoek Lager NFA Cup in the dreaded penalty shootout against eternal rivals Orlando Pirates in the final at a packed to rafters Windhoek’s Independence Stadium in 1991.

Following a successful football career with the Gemengde outfit, the beanpole defender finally bowed out of the game, retiring from competitive football when he was in the twilight of his flourishing career after taking up employment with CDM at Oranjemund in 1994.

He cherished his countless battles against bitter rivals Orlando Pirates and African Stars and says he was very relieved when former Chief Santos speedy winger Croocks Casper joined BA.

“That boy was lightning fast with quick feet and knew the easy route to the goal. I honestly never enjoyed playing against him and African Stars’ tricky winger Juku Tjazuko. Those two guys were a thorn in the flesh of many defenders and could bamboozle any defence on their day,” concludes Awaseb with a wry smile.

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