They might have come from different eras, but the similarity between former African Stars centre-back pair of Vemuna ‘Roadblock’ Hoveka and Gabriel ‘Kierie’ Tjituaiza cannot be divorced.
Strongly built and carrying almost the same height and body structure with their identical, visibly oversized foreheads, cousined by an unbelievable work rate, both defenders arrived at the Katutura glamour football club in almost the same fashion.
In football terms, both were considered late starters and were labelled raw material since they were never part of the club’s customary feeder units or second strings after they surfaced in the city of lights, already having graduated from their pairs of shorts into little men.
Back in the day, those who were not products of the notorious old location would be labelled “moegoes” or village boys, while at the same time considered as uncultured and in dire need of refinement in every aspect of street life.
However, the pair silenced their critics and doubters with near faultless displays on the football pitch to immediately endear themselves in the hearts of the usually hard-to-please Reds followers.
Known as ‘Roadblock’ among his peers for his bone-crunching tackles, the muscular ebony-skinned Vemuna, whose shining white teeth can only be found in toothbrush advertisements, joined Stars from bitter rivals Hungry Lions, amidst murmurs of discontent from the Lions’ den.
His arrival at Stars coincided with the unexpected departure of reliable defender Albert Tjihero, who sent shockwaves amongst the Reds’ diehards after he jumped ship alongside younger siblings Jamanuka and Bimbo, as well as brother-in-law the iconic Oscar ‘Silver Fox’ Mengo.
The quartet joined forces with the newly formed Liverpool. New Era Sport talks to the likeable gentle giant, aka ‘Roadblock’, as he takes you, our esteemed reader, through his journey in football.
A product of Epukiro Chiefs, a social football club from the eastern part of Namibia, Vemuna Hoveka rose to prominence when he relocated to the city of lights in the mid-eighties to join Katutura outfit and Namibia National Soccer League (NNSL) mid-table outfit Hungry Lions.
He was lured to the Lions’ den by his half brother Uahindua ‘Five’ Korupanda and had little qualms about settling into the team’s robust direct style of play, with a significant number of the playing personnel at the maroon and white outfit hailing from the same region he came from.
During his short stint with the ‘Brave Lions’, the thickly bearded defender quickly established himself as a vital cog in the heart of the team’s uncompromising defence, notorious for taking no prisoners.
He was recruited to fill the big gap vacated by departed club stalwart Manuel Mendos, who had left the club for title-chasing Black Africa.
The hard-as-nails mild-mannered Cheesekop versatile fullback announced his arrival in the top echelons of domestic football with steady performances week in and week out, becoming a pillar of strength in the Lions’ much-despised rearguard.
His sudden rise in stature made people take note of his football prowess. He became a much sought-after commodity and it was only a matter of time before the big guns came knocking on his door for his signature.
His inevitable exit did not exactly go down well with his agitated teammates, management and the club’s patriotic supporters, who angrily labelled him a traitor and subsequently christening him “Judas Iscariot”.
Despite all the hatred and multiple words of abuse that were hurled at him by his former bedfellows, Vemuna went about his business unhindered and became the toast of the Reds’ followers as his rock-steady tackling earned him the admiration of teammates and the respect of the opposition.
Apart from his well-drilled defensive capabilities, Vemuna was an excellent header of the ball and would occasionally venture forward on set pieces to punish unsuspecting defenders with his aerial power – getting the odd goal.
History would reveal that the late African Stars forward Ben Hikuepi Kauejao, alongside former Tigers versatile midfielder Isaac Brown Amwenye, Michael ‘Ou Pine’ Pienaar and in later years the venomous Muaine siblings Striker and Munjanda, were the most lethal footballers in aerial duels.
Vemuna will certainly be spoken of in the same breath when football pundits talk about footballers with extraordinary attributes in the air.
He capped his colourful lodging at Stars with several accolades in high profile competitions, including the coveted National Premier League title in the inaugural season of democracy in 1991, in a year that saw the Domingo Martin-inspired Reds claiming every piece of silverware there was to be won.
The humorous strongly built defender was also on the winning side when Stars defeated Ramblers in a nail-biting final of the now defunct Metropolitan Cup at a packed to the rafters Windhoek’s Independence Stadium in 1993.
Vemuna was part of the Reds’ Golden Generation at the turn of Namibia’s democracy in 1990.
He formed a telepathic partnership with the talented Nico Hindjou in a fearless rearguard comprising of highly gifted fullback Mannetjie ‘Maestro’ Kaimu, Bobby Tjiho, Mixab Xoagub, Harry Muharukua, Boas ‘Bowie’ Tjingaete, Phillip Gairiseb, Rasta Mbuende and Steven Mbaisa.
The brother also tasted international football when he played against the visiting South African Professional Soccer League (PSL) outfit Morokka Swallows. Vemuna was also a valuable squad member of the Reds team that competed in the highly competitive annual CAF Club Champions League in Congo- Brazzaville.
However, it was not always a bed of roses as the hardworking tireless defender suffered the ignominy of fighting relegation on a few scary occasions with his beloved Reds, with the majority of the club’s stalwarts having come to their sell-by date.
Vemuna was to oversee several new generations and proved himself to be an excellent leader mentoring the new recruits.
As fate would dictate, an assortment of niggling knee injuries abbreviated his residency in top flight football, obliging the fearless tough tackling clean living defender to eventually bow out of the game at the fairly advanced age of 35.