Back in the day, Namibian football produced a significant chunk of highly gifted athletes, some of whom have long gone the way of all flesh while others have never been heard of as a result of an assortment of circumstantial factors.
A sizable portion of these athletes never really reached, or to be precise, managed to unleash their full potential because of the skewed systems of segregation that restricted Bantus from freely practising their chosen paths.
The likes of Jason Kayala Haufiku, Zondi Amathila, Lemmy Lazarus, Benny Petrus, Erich Lamberth, Manfred ‘Bush’ Menjengua, Micah ‘Capro’ Ngapurue, Nandos ‘the Cat’ Mbako, Tikkie Nambahu, Lohmeir Angula, Malan Kaizemi, Issy Murangi, Japhet Isaacs, Onesmus Akwenye, Harry Tjipueja and many others are just some of those who sacrificed their promising sporting careers to go into exile.
Former Hungry Lions and African Stars FC versatile defender Veraa ‘Roadblock’ Katuuo also joined the galaxy of footballers who could no longer stomach the South African discriminatory apartheid laws, worsened by the much despised Bantu education system that forced the marginalized darkish hide inhabitants to flee their native land to advance their academic aspirations in a conducive environment abroad.
Unlike some of his compatriots who finally returned home upon Namibia’s democracy in 1990, the ebony-skinned tallish defender resolved to settle down in the US – even though he makes frequent visits to his native land.
New Era Sport caught up with the footballer-turned-historian-cum-political activist who is among Namibians living abroad at the forefront of aggressively advocating for reparation on the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu and Nama Genocide, inflicted by German intruders, as he relives his abbreviated football journey and political interests.
Born Barnabas Veraa Katuuo in Namibia’s commercial capital Windhoek in 1954, Veraa grew up in Windhoek’s notorious old location where he attended his primary school at the revered Saint Barnabas Primary School, aka “Joveripate”.
However, the afro-haired ebony skinned tallish lad relocated to the east to find refuge at the Rietquelle School in the Aminuis reserve following the forced removal of old location residents to the modernized Katutura township by the South African government in 1968.
His next stop was the Augustineum High School in Windhoek where he matriculated in 1976. Being a product from the east, he joined forces with a football team at the school hostel Rocking Brothers, a football club laden with the majority of average footballers from that neck of the woods.
But it was not long before Veraa broke ties with Rocking Brothers to throw in his weight with other talented footballers to form a team of mixed tribes.
“At the time, almost all football clubs were formed on ethnicity association – a situation that did not sit exactly well with some of us as students who saw things differently.
“I eventually teamed up with other blokes such as Rusten Mogane, Benny Petrus, Packy Nujoma, Haimbili ‘Shasha’ Nicodemus, Caiphus Kandjii, Wilfred Emvula, August Gaeb, Gheno Himarwa and many others to form our own team, which we christened Bucks FC,” recalls Veraa.
Apart from football, the energetic Veraa also tried his hand at the oval ball (rugby) but his first love was always going to be the beautiful game of football.
In the meantime, he joined unfashionable division two competitive Katutura outfit Hungry Lions Football Club on the recommendation of his multi-talented nephew, Shabby Rukero.
He quickly established himself as a vital cog in the Lions’ den, taking over the playmaker role in the heart of the Lions midfield where he ruled the roost. Veraa quickly rose to prominence and brought a new dimension into the team’s rugged style of play, building play from the back.
Blessed with a brilliant first touch, great vision, excellent ball distribution, aerial power and demonstrating a rare ability of calmness under tremendous pressure, Veraa became the toast of the club’s usually hard-to-please followers while also enjoying the respect and affection of his team-mates.
Unsurprisingly, he was duly rewarded with the captain’s armband for his near faultless displays week in and week out.
Upon completion of his secondary studies, Veraa found himself a slave at Barclays Bank (FNB) and was one of the very first darkish hide employees to be hired to work in a banking institution in apartheid South West Africa (SWA) – a rarity during that time.
“I used that opportunity not only to help my community but to disprove the misplaced perception that whites possessed superior intelligence to blacks. I was determined to prove that blacks were not that stupid as it was made out to be by whites.”
Playing in the country’s highly competitive lower league (second division) Veraa won almost every available accolade there was to be won – winning several knockout tourneys in Windhoek, Gobabis and Okakarara, among others.
During his tenure as skipper, Hungry Lions FC became a formidable force to be reckoned with, dominating domestic football in the lower division to the extent that the maroon and white strip outfit became a much-respected unit amongst football folk.
The team competed fiercely against the likes of Eastern Jumpers, Acro Chiefs and Golden Arrows as well as second string sides from Black Africa, Tigers, Orlando Pirates, Ramblers (Katutura), African Stars and Pirates (Dolam).
In the intervening years, Veraa was converted into a centre back where he formed a telepathic partnership with tough tackling beanpole defender John Uazapi ‘Long Tom’ Kaahangoro in the heart of the uncompromising Lions rearguard, ably assisted by the cool as a cucumber Obed ‘Moripe’ Muundjua alongside much feared bone-crunching tackler Godwin ‘Tikkie’ Muvangua.
Like in any other aspect of life, human beings are bound to reach a ceiling in their chosen careers and this scenario also applied to the calculated and usually cool-headed lad from Aminuis.
It was time to move on to the next level of his astonishing football career and it was inevitable that the highly talented Veraa would find refuge at boyhood team African Stars.
In no time, he quickly established himself as a reliable midfield anchor-cum-ball carrier alongside club legend Justus Kaika Kuzee but as fate would dictate, his newly found romance with his boyhood team unfortunately ended prematurely.
Veraa left his native land in 1979 to pursue his academic aspirations in the United States of America (USA). He resurfaced in the Big Apple (New York) where he heavily got himself entangled in politics, especially at the United Nations (UN).
“I worked very hard to ensure that all Namibians from all walks of life were awarded scholarships, regardless of their political affiliation.
“In the early eighties when the hierarchy of Swapo got wind that many Namibians were fleeing Namibia in search of better educational opportunities abroad, the party attempted by all means to use its influence to prevent them from receiving UN scholarships unless they were attached to Swapo, but they did not succeed.”
Veraa graduated from City College with a degree in architecture and has been working in New York City ever since.
When the late Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero, Kuaima Riruako, called into life the Ovaherero Genocide Reparation issue against the German Government, Veraa joined the debate with Riruako’s support and approval.
They formed the Association of the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu Genocide in the USA – a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promote awareness and affirmation of the 1904-1908 genocide and the just resolution of the Ovaherero demands for restitution from Germany.
“We have been attending conferences in Germany and the USA to educate the world about our near extermination at the hands of Germans.”