When the author witnessed hundreds of success-starved Tigers supporters erupting in joy and ecstasy after the final whistle at Windhoek’s Independence Stadium last weekend, he could not help but shed a tear of joy and happiness as the victory took him down memory lane.
As a young boy, hardly out of his pair of shorts, the author was fortunate enough to have watched “Ingwe Inyama”, as Tigers are affectionately known among their ardent supporters, at their best bamboozling their opponents with ease.
The Times Mwetuyela-inspired outfit used to vigorously maul their opponents in the same vein a wounded Tiger would attack its enemy.
Finally, the country’s oldest football club has won its first Premier league title in post-independence in great fashion. That well-deserved victory can be rightly dedicated to many of the club’s departed stalwarts. In the late 60’s, the star-studded Tigers squad was arguably the finest entity in domestic football.
The team was untouchable, blessed with the most lethal strike force in the business, spearheaded by the legendary Times Mwetuyela alongside homeboy Zebulon “Honnie” Ochurub (uncle of retired Ingwe’s agile shot-stopper Bandike), Johannes Kapuii Angula, Ferdinand Akwenye, aka “Buti Ferre”, ably assisted by the clever midfield play of Puriki Forster, Dakoloh Haininga and Martin Veiko.
And while the dribbling wizard Times was blessed with a delicious left foot, scoring goals at will from all sorts of angles, slicing through robust defenders like a knife cutting through butter – crowd favourite Buti Ferre was indeed the architect behind Tigers’ heart-throbbing build-ups.
Popularly known as “the Slippery Fox” (Akaandje) amongst his peers, Buti Ferre was a marvel to watch, gifted with a football brain second to none.
He could turn a tight game on its head with one moment of individual brilliance, while his customary defence-splitting killer passes from range left many opposing defenders bewildered.
Unsurprisingly, his legacy has now trickled down to his offspring, one Brian Isaacs, better known as “Oubaas” in football circles.
A chip off the old block, the calculated
likeable former midfield genius might not have played for Tigers during the peak of his abbreviated flourishing football career, but he has certainly lived up to his billing.
His presence in the Tigers cage has repaid his old man’s wishes in the most dignified fashion as he steered perennial underachievers Ingwe to the elusive league crown on his first attempt.
In today’s edition of your favourite weekly sports feature, Tales of the Legends, New Era Sport unpacks the unrivalled football exploits of one of the finest local athletes, Ferdinand “the Slippery Fox” Akwenye (Akaandje).
Born Ferdinand Neporo Akwenye in the harbour town of Walvis Bay on May 4, 1943, the third born of nine siblings Buti Ferre found himself in the city of lights, Windhoek, while still a toddler after his parents relocated to Namibia’s commercial capital for better job opportunities.
His genes dictated that he would be a footballer – after all his old man Tobias Akwenye was a founder member of coastal giants Blue Waters Football Club.
Unlike many young footballers starting their football careers with small teams, Ferre was from a different brand and did not have to go through the usual rituals as he walked straight into Tigers’ first team while barely out of his pair of shorts.
His arrival at Ingwe coincided with that of several youngsters who descanted at the club to bolster an ageing squad at Windhoek’s old location during the days when football was considered a religion among the impoverished black communities.
Elder brother Onesmus Shikongo Akwenye was among his celebrated teammates that included Dakoloh Haininga, Coloured Kakololo, Tiekie Nambahu, Nandos “the Cat” Mbako, Purikie Forster, Timo Mwetuyela, Honnie Ochurub, Seth Urib and Pineas Iyambo, among a galaxy of stars.
In those days, Tigers dominated local football to the extent that they almost ran out of decent opponents – winning almost every silverware there was to be won as the blue and white strip outfit outmanoeuvred their opponents with the precision of a seasoned butcher.
In the absence of proper league structures, football teams were compelled to engage in exhibition matches at the old Bantu football field in Pionierspark, south of Windhoek, while also competing fiercely in the popular knockout cup competitions around the country.
As a result of their attractive brand of carpet football, Tigers became the toast of football followers and counted among the very few disciplined teams that never engaged in physical fights or quarrels whenever referees’ decisions went against them.
He was the fastest of forwards, but Buti Ferre possessed a decent shot in his right foot and had a cunning way of getting past robust defenders.
The likes of Philip ‘Kierie” Hei, Petrus Mazenge (African Stars), Izaak “Whoops” Gariseb and Nana Goaseb (Orlando Pirates) were made to chase shadows looking like beginners whenever the Slippery Fox was in possession of the spherical object.
Back in the day, the country was blessed with a plentiful supply of deadly forwards in the mould of William Zika Martin “Okambua Kombandi” (Rocco Swallows), //Nerab Gariseb (Jungle Boys), Lemmy Narib (Orlando Pirates), Gabes Mupupa, Tommy Ushona (Eleven Arrows), George Hoveka (African Stars), Pius Eigowab (Black Africa) and the Namib Woestyn terrible quartet of Daito Hagedoorn, Haban Adams, Straal Auchumeb and Axarob Doeseb.
However, Buti Ferre was in a different bracket as he would not only score breathtaking goals, but was capable of providing dozens of assists for his equally dangerous co-forwards Times and Honnie – a rare commodity that separated him from the rest of the pack.
A true gentleman that he was, Buti Ferre retired from competitive football while still at the pinnacle of his blossoming football career to pave the way for the new generation of Grey Umati, Abner Tobias, Silas Nuyoma, Brown Amwenye, Bollie Kandonga, Shaka Mbako, Tives Mbako, Fundi Kambangula, Paul Hiskia, Tommy Schmidt (Ombuka Joutji), Ruby Khumalo and Scala Shaanika to preserve the club’s legacy.
Several generations followed afterwards but it was not until the arrival of a young forward going by the name of Foresta “Futo” Nicodemus that Tigers started to show their mettle in domestic football.
The club won the inaugural edition of the breakaway Namibia Soccer Super League in 1985 and went on to claim several knockout tournaments, including back-to-back wins in the then coveted Mainstay Cup in 1996 and 1997.
However, the inevitable retirement of many of the club’s stalwarts contributed largely to the demise of the team in subsequent years with the club experiencing a severe cup drought – stretching to almost two solid decades.
As fate would dictate, the likeable “Slippery Fox” sadly exited the game of life on the 22nd of August 2006 after succumbing to a bout of illness, aged 63.
The late Buti Ferre must have endured restless nights in his grave worrying about his former club’s poor showing since his retirement from the game.
Fortunately, and by the grace of the Almighty, his biological son Brian Isaacs obediently responded to his prayers from the grave – single-handedly reigniting the club’s fortunes to bring back the glory days.
The former Tigers scoring ace is also the old man of internationally acclaimed Namibian sprinter Tobias Akwenye, while his other siblings Harold (Bolla) and local property mogul Nelson (Dicky) Akwenye were formidable footballers in their own right.
Buti Ferre, wherever you are in heaven, you will always be remembered as an icon and doubtlessly one of the pioneers of Namibian football. May your soul rest in eternal peace.