When one of the pioneers of domestic football Tigers Football Club won the league title in the inaugural edition of the breakaway rebel Namibia National Soccer League (NNSL) in 1985, that victory was deservedly dedicated to some of the club’s departed heroes.
Among those who exited the game of life while still at the pinnacle of their blossoming football careers were the club’s blue-eyed boy Times Mwetuyela, Purikie Forster and fast as lightning flying winger Tommy Smith, aka ‘Ombuka Joutji’ in football circles.
Born in Windhoek’s Old Location on the 16th of January 1951, unlike many of his peers in the Tigers squad who were products of the old location Bra Tommy grew up in Katutura and was schooled at the Mandume Primary School in the Ovambo section.
Apart from turning out for the school’s football side where he played alongside the late flamboyant central defender Ipangena ‘Spangherro’ Shikwambi, Silas Nuujoma, Gabes Haufiku and Sekulu Hipondoka, among others, Tommy was a one-team man and spent his abbreviated football career at boyhood club Tigers Football Club.
He started out in the club’s second team, forming a telepathic deadly partnership with General Angala, Ringo Mbako, Fudi Kambangula, Packy Nujoma and other upcoming footballers from the neighbourhood.
It was not long before he earned promotion to Ingwe’s senior team where he was to play a pivotal role in the club’s transformation with many of the old guard fading away.
He might not have been a prolific goal scorer in the mould of his more celebrated team-mate General Angala, but Tommy provided more assists than many of his team-mates with his customary European style of play.
He only had one thing up his sleeve: beat the opponent, take the ball down the byline and deliver a decent cross into the penalty box where his co-strikers lay in siege to finish the job.
A good header of the ball, Tommy would occasionally register his name on the score sheet and although he did not pack a powerful shot – he made up with vision and great positional play as he would always be at the right place at the right time to get to the through balls.
Off the field, Tommy was as quiet as a mouse and would only talk when spoken to though he would sporadically crack a joke or two. He was much adored by team-mates and members of the opposition for his mild-mannered casual approach on and off the field of play.
There was a time when Tigers had a few hotheads, who made it their sole province to harass and dispute referees’ decisions at the slightest provocation but the usually calculated Bra Tommy would always keep a cool head and play the peacemaker.
Nevertheless, watching Tommy tormenting robust defenders with sheer pace and clever play down the wing, sometimes cleverly exchanging wing position with the equally dangerous Jason Kayala Haufiku, was always a marvel to watch.
Unfortunately as fate would dictate, Tommy’s precious life was cut short at the fairly young age of 29 through a freak domestic incident that claimed his life while still at the peak of his football career.
Although he exited the game of life while he still had a lot to offer, Namibians will always remember Bra Tommy as someone who unselfishly provided a different dimension to the local game. He will be remembered as such. May his soul rest in eternal peace in one piece.