Towards the end of his career as a sports journalist Corry Ihuhua relied on a notebook and pen while younger colleagues fiddled with tape recorders. At times he would not even bother to conduct touchline interviews.
“I know what Bobby (Samaria) is going to say,” he would say driving out of the stadium to go write his match report.
Match reports are not common among today’s sports writers – they argue what is the use of telling readers every minute of the game when everyone on social media does so, before the newspaper is printed.
Like many veteran football writers, Corry was far more interested in what players had to say than the banal platitudes pouring out of a manager’s mouth on the touchline. He preferred calling the players after a match or chatting with them during training.
Often he would look at these young players with benign indifference, as if a child had wandered into the room when the grown-ups were there to discuss football. If the nonsense was particularly numbing he would lay his notebook and pen on the desk mid-“quote”, or else amuse himself by openly doodling.
Corry’s pen will not be lifted again. The death of one of Namibia’s greatest football writers on Sunday when his side Manchester United surrendered a top-four podium spot to my Tottenham Hotspurs was symbolic. Usually, I would have called him to mock him, but this time, the call was from his relatives. It came as startling news to many, including myself.
But Corry had long been ill, since diagnosed with liver problems around 2010 when he was to spend two months in the Roman Catholic Hospital, emerging a teetotaller.
Still those who followed his trenchant weekly column in The Namibian would see that he was in pain. Corry was sharp, witty, argumentative, contrary, shyly reserved and formidable.
He could be warm and funny or a pain in the neck. The easiest way to disappoint him was to say something with which he agreed. It’s hard to imagine a bundle of energy like that suddenly not being around anymore. He was 42. No age at all.
Our media team was born courtesy of his determination as he pushed John Ekongo, TK, and Jimmy Julie to make sure we remained as one. What Corry said, we would always oblige. Not because he was an authority, but a leader and likeable fellow.
His biggest mistake was when he got personal with Tom Saintfiet, then Brave Warriors coach. Saintfiet had started dating Cheryl (whom he later married), a girl whom Corry had dated for months.
It was too much of a bitter pill to swallow for Corry, who resorted to pay the Belgian back in his own coin through a very critical story of Saintfiet that landed him in the soup with his editors. Sainfiet took the matter up with the ombudsman and many of us still believe that was his Waterloo at The Namibian newspaper.
In his later columns, Corry wrote witheringly about local football’s fast decline and its current mediocrity. He was a witness to, and superb chronicler of, a far more substantial period. It infuriated certain football authorities that wanted him to be stopped, but the brother would laugh at it.
From thereon his career took him to the Namibian Sun, before shifting to The Villager, but all this was far from what he loved doing…sports writing, hence he never made a name there.
Cameo roles with One Africa and NBC television stations, were part of him having unofficially retired from the frontlines where there wasn’t much pressure on such jobs anymore. By 2014, he was settled far from the media, barely reading newspapers but still following his dear Tigers FC, while assisting his cousin’s business in Southern Industria.
All this time, we never really sat and discussed soccer with Corry.
In fact, most people thought we were football aficionados, yet it was the writing that we enjoyed. Sports we loved but not necessarily football and he would dislike it when fans surrounded him with questions on football.
After a falling-out with Barry Rukoro over his column, Corry was asked by his paymasters to tone it down, and he personally inspired me to start a faceless column, Yours-Truly with Informante. Faceless, I would write what Corry’s bosses didn’t want that time.
I wasn’t the only one. Young journalists making their way could be assured of his encouragement and support. Then fresh from college, Festus Nakatana now editor of the Sun settled with the Windhoek Observer thanks to Corry’s encouragement.
He would sit at the corner flag of Independence Stadium during a match and advise us. To him we were not competitors. We were partners. He would send you a photo and not ask for credit. He would give you his full match report and ask you extract notes from it and write a story for your own newspaper without crediting him. Such was Corry.
The clarity and perceptiveness of his writing, and his command of language, were second to none. No one wrote with greater elegance under the growing shadow of a final whistle deadline.
He gave consistent approval to few, but among them were his friends, and peers, Kayele Kambombo, Helge Schulz, Festus Nakatana, Chester Uamunika, John Tuerijama, in particular Isaack Hamata, and the sports writing doyen, Carlos Kambaekwa.
As a natural raconteur with a fund of anecdotes and a keen memory he was a natural source to tap when budding writers Hector Mawonga and Sheefeni sought references.
Once Helge was speeding into Wamboland for the NFA Cup and Corry said, “Helge stop the car quickly. Something just came up.” We were all surprised.
He went on, “My brother, you are speeding in Wamboland and you are a whitey, if anything happens to this car and overturns, all these Wambos will beat you if not kill you. They will think you were trying to steal us or something.”
We would laugh the whole journey as we covered sports from Walvis Bay to Katima, covering boxing, cricket, football and hockey. But I still think the highlight of his career was watching Barcelona versus Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa, when Messi had just reached his peak in 2007 at Loftus Stadium.
There was Spanish flamenco dancing, African drumming and the unique trumpeting of the South African ‘vuvuzela’ or air horn – called football’s beautiful noise here. That time, vuvuzelas were not a global phenomenon.
I had the great pleasure of knowing Corry for 12 years. He was a man of great principle and of considerable talent, except playing soccer. Lol.
Going out after a match with officials and players, Corry would stand in the bar, left leg on top of the other, right elbow leaning on the edge of the bar counter nodding characteristically, seemingly in conversation with fans and football authorities.
Engaging him in a discussion, he was harmless, but on paper, his independent and brave voice and the ability to see and convey the bigger picture brought him great respect as one of the best sports writers of his time. My prayers are with his family.
As he would say, “Man, check it out, chief”.
We will surely miss that artificial stutter. You appreciated much of my writings, in private and in public, I hope you ‘check this out chief’. R.I.P.
- Confidence Musariri is a renowned businessman and a former sports writer. Connymusa@gmail.com