Potent ‘Fire’ had few equals

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Windhoek

A product of Windhoek’s Old Location, Fire was born Geoffrey Bailey on the 18th of September 1959 but was to spend his formative years juggling between Katutura and Khomasdal following forced removal from the area in 1959.
Like many of his peers in the neigbourhood, Fire began playing football in the dusty streets competing in the popular stake games, mostly at the Second Native School in Khomasdal. He teamed up with other football crazy boys led by the Hendricks brothers Dawid and Malcom (Melkies), and Saul Water to form a small football club whom they christened Kangaroo Eleven.

Melkies’ old uncle Hobo used to love football and would inspire the youngsters to play the game.

“We later formed Kaizer Chiefs FC and started playing in more organized structures by joining the Khomasdal League where we competed against the likes of Thistles, Merits, Strangers,” reveals Fire. Some of his well-known team-mates included Floors Steenkamp (Ski’s elder brother).

“In the beginning we used to compete fiercely in knockout tournaments for trophies in towns such as Windhoek, Rehoboth, Walvis Bay and Oamites Mine.”

As time progressed, Fire was one of very few boys from his generation of young footballers touted for greatness by those in the know and it came as no surprise when he was snapped up by newly formed Bethlehem outfit Red Devils.
He found himself in the good company of highly gifted young footballers in the mould of the Peterson brothers Olic and Mike, Geoffrey Zaahl and Lister Fourie amongst others. In the meantime, the tall and skinny defender became a regular starter in the formidable Ella Du Plessis High School football first team.

Such was his influence on and off the playing field that he was rewarded with the captain’s armband for the school team.

Upon completing his studies, Fire joined forces with Khomasdal leading club Thistles and with many of the old guard having reached the twilight of their football careers, soon afterwards Fire was obliged to move on as he sought to play at the highest level.

Newly formed exciting Khomasdal outfit Young Ones was his next destination. His arrival at the Kings of the Night coincided with that of multiple winning coach, Gary ‘Die Bek’ Sales, who has just replaced John Swarts.

Although the young outfit played some attractive one-two’s football that was to be coined the ‘tika-taka’ style in the modern game – the former Ramblers fullback (Sales) dramatically transformed the team’s traditional positional play into meaningful returns.

After dominating football in the lower division for many years, Young Ones finally gained promotion to the Central Elite League, the Central Football Association (CFA) in 1982.

Young Ones’ inevitable promotion to the elite league produced the desired results as it attracted the crème de la crème of young footballers from Khomasdal.

The red, white and black stripped Red Devils became the pride of the posh residential area, which was deliberately tailored for Coloureds and Basters by the racist South African apartheid regime.

“We assembled a very good squad laden with highly gifted footballers but for some strange reasons we always struggled dismally to get the better of Katutura giants African Stars until the arrival of Lionel ‘Boet’ Mathews.

“Boet was a phenomenal athlete with the ability to dictate the pace of the game at any given tiem during play. He taught us to apply the finer points of playing football and how to neutralize tricky opponents.

“It was all down to his philosophy that we finally managed to beat the much fancied African Stars at the SKW stadium and from there on, many teams started to take us more seriously.”Fire was to form the spine of the all conquering Young Ones outfit and won almost everything there was to be won in domestic football, including the coveted Mainstay Cup, the equivalent of the current NFA Bidvest Cup.

He was to captain Young Ones to many accolades as the Kings of the Night bamboozled many teams with their carpet football.

Lingering in the obscurity of the lower division nowadays after the club’s shock relegation from the elite league, Young Ones are still regarded by many a football pundits as the finest football team to have emerged from Namibian shores.

As fate would dictate, Fire was obliged to retire from the game after a practice ground incident that left him totally embarrassed and had to reconsider his further involvement in the beautiful game. Getting a bit long in the tooth, Fire was tasked to mark the speedy Kosie Springbok during a training session and the quicksilver striker took him completely to the cleaners – making him a laughing stock of fellow team-mates.

“That boy was dangerous and possessed unbelievable pace. He would leave me looking like a beginner as he went past me with ease – making me to look like a zombie,” laughs Fire as he relates his unforgettable ordeal with the speedy winger.

That was to be his last contribution to football and the brother decided there and then to quit the game. “I could no longer stomach being made a fool of by a youngster and resolved to hang up my togs for good.”

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