Born in the small and rocky town of Usakos in the vast Erongo Region in 1952, Gustav ‘Bollie’ Kandonga at the age of seven moved to the harbour town of Walvis Bay with his mother.
On his arrival in the coastal town, he immediately hooked up with other young boys in the neighbourhood and would play football at the slightest provocation.
Bollie started to mingle with other talented boys such as well known former Namibian motor racing icon Lukas ‘Oupapa’ Hipondoka, Ranga Lucas, Zondi Amadhila, Maleagi Tobias, Mathew Amadhila, Simon ‘Motwa’ Mwandingi, the late Pari Shekupe and his hometown boy Bonnettie Neilenge.
The youngsters formed a small football team, which they christened System Brothers FC, and would usually compete in small stake games in the dusty streets of Kuisebmond.
In 1963, he relocated to the city of lights, Windhoek, to further his schooling at the famous Rhenish Herero School in Windhoek’s old location.
There, he found himself surrounded by established young footballers led by the legendary Kapuii Angula, Kaika Kuzee, Grey Umati, Kaparoro Kandjii, Fundi ‘Kido’ Kambangula, Ephraim Katjitata Kazombiaze, Erastus ‘Nobby Stiles’ Hambira, Shaka Mbako, Usiel Kastamba Muruko and Kometundnu Tjituka, to mention but a few.
Bollie was between the sticks when the Rhenish Herero School swept their opponents aside displaying football virtuosity never before seen in that neck of the woods to claim top honours in the maiden edition of the historic knockout youth tourney, featuring the Bantu schools from the city of Windhoek.
The tourney was the brainchild of former school principal Theo Katjimune, who bought the trophies with money from his own pocket, for the competitions in both the football and netball disciplines.
Participating schools included hosts Rhenish Herero School, Mandume, Saint Barnabas, Rhenish Nama School and M.H. Greeff, a Roman Catholic school for so-called Coloureds, Basters and a few learners from well-to-do Black families during the height of apartheid.
“We had a good squad of not only talented athletes, but dedicated footballers with the late Kapuii on fire on that particular weekend. Our school came out of the two-day competition unscathed. We beat Mandume (2-1) in our opening match before seeing off St Barnabas (3-0) en route to the final.
“In the final, we defeated pre-tournament favourites the Rhenish Nama School by 3 goals to 1 with the late Sisingi Hiskia officiating the match at the packed to the rafters municipal stadium in Katutura,” revealed Bollie.
His exploits between the sticks did not go unnoticed with African Stars keeping tabs on the upcoming young net-guard as the team badly needed to replace the butterfingered Ripuree Hoveka.
The football-crazy Bollie was left with no other choice but to join the Reds after he was deemed too small and inexperienced to dislodge the great Nandos Mbako from the number one spot at Tigers.
“I was persuaded by the late George Kanima Hoveka to join African Stars. I could not believe it when I got my first break in topflight football in the company of greats such as Theo Ndisiro, Mike Pack, Cleophas Siririka, Amos Tjombe, Cosky Ngaizuvare and Seth Kaimu. After a couple of matches for the Reds, I was obliged to cross the floor just before a crucial cup final against Tigers at the municipal stadium in Katutura.”
Tigers were facing the prospect of confronting their eternal enemies without the valuable services of reliable acrobatic shot-stopper Nandos ‘The Cat’ Mbako between the sticks as he had issues to sort out with the police after he floored a mischievous white fellow.
In his own words, Tigers’ playing personnel accompanied by some angry supporters surrounded him and told him in no uncertain terms that he should be playing for Tigers as blood is thicker than water.
He was reminded in plain township lingo and questioned whether he had ever seen any Otjiherero-speaking footballer turning out for Tigers and why he should sell his soul by featuring for a team composed of non-Oshiwambo-speaking athletes.
The brother eventually bowed to the tribally motivated pressure and soon found himself on the opposite end of the field when the two teams trotted onto the pitch to confront each other.
He played a blinder during his enforced debut for Ingwe – keeping a clean sheet as the two teams played out a goalless draw with the subsequent replay culminating in similar fashion, before Tigers eventually triumphed 1-0 through the late Zebulon ‘Honnie’ Ochurub’s lone strike after three failed attempts.
In the meantime, Bollie and some of his fellow students from Augustineum High School in Windhoek would make it their main preoccupation to sneak out of the city – boarding the train on the long journey to Walvis Bay during the school holidays in search of temporary work in the fishing industry.
With boyhood buddy Hofni ‘Grey’ Umati on his side, Bollie would feature as a guest player for Blue Waters during the school holidays.
He finally rose to prominence when the legendary Nandos left the country to go into exile to escape the indignities and injustices of apartheid. Bollie was stationed between the sticks when a fired-up Tigers outfit saw off arch rivals Blue Waters in the Dave’s Knockout Cup final at the old Katutura stadium in a six-goal thriller (4-2).
However, his promising goalkeeping career was to be derailed by a career-ending knee injury inflicted by his own teammate during a match against Explorer Eleven.
A jack of all trades in the real sense of the word, Bollie was deployed on the right wing on that particular day when he unintentionally collided with ‘Oom Paul’ Hiskia in a tussle with Explorer’s tough man Katlab Tsauseb. The incident left him with a fractured knee and he never recovered fully to reclaim his former glory days between the sticks.
Nevertheless, he went on to oversee several generations of footballers at his beloved Tigers before he called it quits, because of failure to recover sufficiently from what turned out to be a career-ending knee injury.
In his parting words, the late Bollie held former Black Africa sharpshooter Pius ‘Garrincha’ Eigowab as the deadliest striker of his generation and also sang praises for former Jungle Boys dribbling wizard Petrus //Nerab Gariseb and Black Africa speedy winger Gerson Xarab Gariseb for their exceptional football virtuosity.
The departed brother dreaded his countless confrontations with Namib Woestyn’s notorious defender Lukas Araeb.
“That guy was a tough nut to crack and used to instill fear in his opponents before a ball was even kicked as he always carried a knife in his pair of socks.” May his soul rest in peace.