Tales of the legends: Simon Mogane – a real football pioneer

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Windhoek

Popularly known as ‘Oom Simon’, Mogane senior arrived in then South West Africa on the ticket of the South African Bantu Commissioner after he was posted to Windhoek to take indigenous Namibians through the ropes in the art of bricklaying.

“I was still very young – only 24 years old – in a group of an 18-member workforce that included 12 builders, three carpenters and three plumbers. It took us five solid days on the marathon train journey from Pretoria to Windhoek.
“I vividly remember that we were placed under the watchful eye of a gentleman going by the name of Karire Kamberipa. He was our middleman and was tasked to act as our guide and interpreter as well, because none of us could utter a single word of the local languages – with Afrikaans the dominant medium of communication at the time,” recalls Oom Simon.

The South African entourage was housed at a makeshift shack near the municipal warehouse in Katutura, from where they conducted their operations.

“Our main task was to train locals in how to build houses, but we ended up doing the work ourselves, because many of the locals were not interested in construction work. We recruited about 200 handymen (workers) from the northern region and had only about four locals on site. Surprisingly, we ended up chasing kudus almost everyday, because the area where the Katutura residential area was to be built was very bushy.”
The workforce was divided into groups of builders and the same number of assistants per unit and was required to construct three units per day.

“In those days, we were extremely energetic and could easily complete three houses a day, but you won’t believe it if I reveal the kind of peanuts paid to us as builders. We were paid a paltry amount of 10 cents per hour, although the top notch was 20 cents per hour.

“We started off with the Damara section, Police Camp and moved to the Ovambo location, before we shifted to the Herero section and subsequently the construction of the Katutura Community Hall and the Central Shopping Complex”.

Oom Simon relates a funny tale of how a white constructor contracted them to work over weekends during their off days. “There was this white dude from South Africa, he was building houses in Windhoek North near the Windhoek Central Hospital and needed manpower. For us it was extra income and we all jumped at the chance, but the problem was blacks were not allowed to build houses for white folks, so we were strictly advised to occasionally masquerade as general labourers, whenever the larneys were in close proximity.”

There is a saying that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and these South African imports were no exception to that unwritten rule. The group started a football team, which they simply christened Union Terrors FC. In those days, there were no organised structures in local football and many teams would engage in exhibition matches over weekends. “We used to compete fiercely against the likes of African Stars, Cape Cross and Tigers,” he recalls.
Like his son Rusten, Oom Simon was pulling the strings in the middle of the park and would often play as fullback, because of his speed. In later years, Oom Simon was among a group of young footballers, who started a new football team by the name Eleven Kangaroos, which was later changed to Black Africa.

“We recruited a number of highly talented young footballers from Saint Joseph’s Secondary School (Dobra) and soon became a major force to be reckoned with in domestic competitions.”
Oom Simon also had a brief stint at Katutura United, where he played alongside the legendary Lemmy Narib under the stewardship of Robert Motlabo.

In 1958 Oom Simon met his then wife-to-be and gorgeous partner, Judith Ndingane, who coincidently also hailed from across the Orange River, from Transkei in the Eastern Cape. Madam Judith was a qualified nurse at the Old Location medical clinic and boasts a remarkable and historic work resumé, as she was amongst the nurses who treated dozens of casualties after the 1959 Old Location Massacre.

Work commitment eventually forced Oom Simon to relocate to Uis in the Erongo Region, where he continued to play the beautiful game for a small local club. “Our team used to play a lot of exhibition matches against teams from nearby villages, including Usakos,” he says.

After five years in the wilderness, Oom Simon retreated to Windhoek in 1970. Four years later, he was installed as Black Africa team manager and was to oversee the turnaround of the Gemengde outfit, as BA went on to sweep trophy after trophy in a successful period lasting almost two decades.

Duirng his tenure as BA manager Oom Simon became very unpopular and a much-hated man amongst BA’s opponents, who believed he practiced juju on their beloved teams as they found it hard to get the better of the Albert Louw-inspired outfit. He then resolved to quit the game as he started fearing he might be killed in retaliation for the false belief that he practiced juju. “I would deliberately walk across the field at half-time and this well-crafted trick worked wonders, as our opponents would always lose focus thinking they have been bewitched,” laughs the humorous and streetwise old toppie.

“My other trick was chewing gum and as soon as they noticed that they would think I’m chewing some kind of magic. Eish! Those were the good old days when football was a marvel to watch.”

On a parting shot, Oom Simon blasted the standard of modern football. He says players nowadays are too complacent, lazy and lack the killer instinct in front of goal. “When last did you see a Namibia footballer take a decent shot from range? They want to dribble the ball into the net. It’s so sad.”

Oom-Simon BA-Team

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