Tribute to an unsung football hero, Simon ‘Motwa’ Mwandingi

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When coastal giants Blue Waters Football Club took the field to confront cross-town rivals Atlantis Football Club in an exhibition football match to mark the birth of multi-racial football in apartheid South West Africa in 1976, the Kuisebmond outfit had one thing in mind and that was to halt white supremacy.

Apart from a lethal strike force comprising of the bow-legged goal poacher and dribbler Johannes Kapwi Angual, Immanuel Kamuserandu, Theu Amadhila, the midfield genius of silky playmaker Lemmy Lazarus and Riva Jekonia – the squad boasted a formidable rearguard.

Though evergreen Ranga Lucas formed the spine of the Birds’ backline, the lineup had great fearless defenders in the mould of Julius Stephanus, Jerry Shikongo and overlapping fullback Simon “Motwa” Mwandingi at left back.

Nicknamed Motwa after the former Benoni United defender Simon Motwan, the strongly built tough-tackling left-footed fullback was an integral part of the Birds’ backline.

In that particular match, he was tasked to thwart any danger that might be posed by the dangerous Sammy Alfheim and he certainly acquitted himself masterfully as the Birds walloped their cross-town opponents 3-0 in an action-packed match.
Like many other talented youngsters of his generation, Mwandingi started out in the Birds’ third strings before he graduated to the first team.

He was eventually promoted to the first team to replace the late Leo Shimbuli and never looked back, making the revered number three jersey his own property.

In today’s edition of your weekly sports feature, Tales of the Legends, New Era Sport brings to you our esteemed readers the football journey of one of the most underrated fullbacks in the history of domestic football.

 

Born Simon Mwandingi on the 16th of April 1952 in the remote village of Eputo, Onipa in the vast Oshikoto Region, Simon would be considered a late starter in the real sense of the word.

He arrived in Walvis Bay as a raw village boytjie barely out of his pair of shorts and like many other boys his age, he started kicking plastic balls in the dusty streets of Walvis Bay’s old location.

“I was around about twelve years old when I arrived in Walvis Bay from the village and was literally a grown-up boy when I started school at the local Immanuel Gaseb Primary School for natives.

“You know what, in those days, recreational facilities and extra-mural activities were virtually non-existent, so the only thing to do to while away time was to play football in the streets,” recalls Motwa.

Motwa was a founder member of a local football team christened Mashuwa Boys, made up of aspiring young footballers from the neigbourhood. Some of his teammates were Josephat ‘Moripe’ Jekonia, Bonnetti Neilenge and Riva Jekonia, among others.
In between, the left-footed strongly built stocky winger would feature regularly for the school team, tormenting defenders at will with amazing speed and ferocious shots from long range.

“We used to compete fiercely against other schools from Swakopmund and neighbouring towns and I can tell you, competition for starting berths was quite tough but I was always in the starting lineup.”

Motwa was among the founder members of Walvis Bay United Football Club, a team from the school hostel when he moved to Windhoek to further his studies at the revered Augustineum High School holed up in the city of lights. The team was predominantly made up of athletes from the harbour town of Walvis Bay and had in its midst the likes of Johnny Veicko, Jerry Tobias, Kapwii Angula and other gifted young footballers from the coast.

He also played for the school’s second strings and would often turn out for Blue Waters’ third team back home during the school holidays.

However, his lodging in the Birds’ third team did not last long as he was promoted to the second team where he played for two seasons before graduating to the elite side.

“In those days, competition among the feeder teams was extremely tough and quite competitive. We had a fantastic bunch of footballers in the second team squad in the mould of Frans Tara Shimbuli and Tostao Imbili, just to mention a few.”

His promotion to the first team squad coincided with the arrival of a number of high-profile youngsters and established footballers led by Riva Jekonia, Ranga Lucas, Julius Stephanus, Lemmy Lazarus, Zondi Amadhila, Boy-Boy Ndjadila, Bonnetti Neilenge, Dacosta Phillemon, Jerry Shikongo and Johannes Kapwii Angula.

Motwa regrets missing out playing for the star-studded Western Invitational Eleven against the visiting Kaizer Chiefs in an exhibition match at the old Katutura stadium in 1973.

“I was up in the north at the time and regional selectors could not locate me in the absence of proper telecommunication systems in those days. I would have loved to play in that match against those silky South Africans but it was not to be.”

However, he got his big break when Blue Waters trotted onto the field to confront cross-town opponents Atlantis FC in an exhibition clash of the titans at the packed to rafters Atlantis field in Walvis Bay in 1976.

“We played our lungs out that particular day because we took it upon ourselves not to lose against our oppressors and were determined to show them that blacks could be on equal terms if the playing ground was level.” Blue Waters triumphed 3-0.
“That match will remain in my memory for as long as I live – the atmosphere was phenomenal, probably because most of the guys we played against were our colleagues at work.

“It was a fantastic match played in good spirits. We were on song that particular day and eager to prove a point, bidding to change white people’s misplaced perceptions that blacks were tailored to play second fiddle to whites.”

In later years, Motwa relocated to Oshakati in the northern part of Namibia and was a founding member of newly established football club African United in 1983.

“We assembled a great squad laden with schoolteachers from neighbouring South Africa and Transkei and competed fiercely in the popular knockout tournaments.”

He cites former Black Africa and Kaizer Chiefs (SA) sharpshooter Pius ‘Garricha’ Eigowab, aka ‘Pele’, as the most difficult opponent and lethal goal poacher during his playing days.

“That guy was a menace to many defenders, quick off the mark and quite a handful while he possessed almost everything required from an old-fashioned centre forward.

“Pele used to terrorize defenders with brutal strength and could run fast while shooting from any angle – he was just something out of the ordinary.”

Motwa-jpg Blue-Waters-Logo

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