Even with promising and rising stars, such as the free-scoring striker, Deon Brookes, midfield kingpin Malcolm ‘Melkies’ Hendricks, and the versatile Leon ‘Hare’ Carew, in their armoury, Celtic FC was never really rated amongst the country’s elite soccer entities. The coastal outfit always had to live in the shadow of the exciting Khomasdal-based outfit, Young Ones Football Club, during the golden era of Namibian football.
Born in Rehoboth, south of the Namibian commercial capital Windhoek in 1956, ‘Hare’ honed his knowledge of the game when he started school at the Emma Greef Primary School in Khomasdal, where he played alongside former Chiefs and Eleven Arrows striker, Anton ‘Shadow’ Cloete.
But his football would take a dramatic turn when he graduated to the Ella du Plessis High School in the intervening years. “I started to enjoy football more and it was really great playing alongside talented footballers, such as Eric Muinjo, Stanley Coetzee, Baka Mertens, Eric Scheifer, Julius Hagedoom and Theuns Ochs,” ‘Hare’ recalls with a twinkle in his greenish eyes.
‘Hare’ was a founder member of the now defunct Khomasdal-based club, Spartans FC, alongside the late Kiro Makati in the late seventies.
Spartans joined the predominantly coloured league in Khomasdal, which comprised of Thistles, Strangers and Atlanta Chiefs. Amongst his team mates were Paka and Chris Claasen, Willem Isaacs, Willy Rhodes, and Babsy Campell.
“I started out as a goalkeeper but later switched to striker because of my pace and sharp eye for goal’’. He relocated to Swakopmund in 1977 where he joined Tamariskia’s leading soccer team Excelsor FC. He later teamed up with Johan Lawrence, Theuns Ochs, Piet Baljon and Allen Krohne to establish Celtic FC.
The team competed in the coastal second division and won the league on several occasions. “We played good football and competed fiercely against established teams, whilst we also did well during the qualifying rounds in the then popular Mainstay Cup competition.’’
Swakopmund had always produced great footballers but the lack of job opportunities in the town had seen a significant number of promising footballers leave for greener pastures – and that contributed largely to the town’s inability to have a competitive football team in the country’s top league.
“In those days, football here in Swakopmund was very competitive with teams like Blue Boys, African Warriors, Flying Eagles and Atlanta chiefs all in a class of their own,’’ Hare said.
Celtic announced its arrival on the football scene with their exciting brand of carpet football that mesmerised their opponents and saw the team going from strength to strength as time passed.
“We beefed up the squad with the recruitment of other talented youngsters, such as Malcolm Hendricks. Hare used to be a versatile athlete, a Jack-of-all-trades in the real sense of the word.
Deon Brookes said their presence helped Celtic become the toast of the town, but the pair soon left to join Young Ones and Civics in Windhoek. Despite their success in the coastal second tier division, Celtic never really tasted Premier League football and the club is currently still rooted in the Erongo second division.
The likeable Hare left Celtic briefly in 1987 to join Rossing Country Club (RCC) in the predominantly white Amateur Soccer League (ASA), before he returned to his beloved Celtic to wind up his blossoming football career. Now 53, ‘Hare’ has been bestowed with the distinguished honour of ‘Life President’ at Celtic and is still very much involved with the day-to-day running of the club.
“We were basically one of the very few football clubs in this country to pioneer the introduction of multi-racial football, but a lack of decent financial backing and sponsorships contributed to the tortoise-paced growth of this great club’’, he said.
A multi-talented athlete, Hare had an range of other sporting disciplines to choose from, including rugby and athletics, in both the track and field events.
He was also a valuable member of the untouchable Rossing Uranium athletics relay B team that made a clean sweep at each and every Inter Mines Championships, during the 1980s.
He represented then South West Africa’s Veterans Athletics Team during the South Africa provincial veterans athletics meet at Pretoria in 1989 and 1990. His flourishing football career was however brought to an abrupt end when he suffered a career-threatening knee injury while playing for Celtic in the annual SFC 5-a-side tournament in Swakopmund during the festive season.
‘’I must confess, I really enjoyed our countless battles with Eleven Arrows. They had a very intelligent defender in the person of Ngeny Emvula,” he said. He rated former Orlando Pirates and Ramblers winger, Eric Muinjo and Abraham Shikololo, as amongst the greatest footballers he rubbed shoulders with during his prime time.
A staunch Orlando Pirates supporter, it’s not surprising that his favourite footballers were the Ghosts’ terrible striking pair of Ismael ‘Lemmy Special’ Narib and Michael ‘Ou Pine’ Pienaar. He also held former Explorer Eleven and Cape Cross’s fast-as-lightning striker, Werrick ‘Uerivara’ Zimmer and John Swarts, in high esteem.