Back in the day, goalkeepers were gravely exposed to dangers accompanied by potential serious injuries with very little protection accorded to the net guards by match officials.
Unlike in modern football where gloves men are freely given the benefit of the doubt in physical battles with marauding strikers, goalkeepers in yester-year were left to fend for themselves to the extent that very few footballers would be keen to be stationed between the sticks, let alone manning the goalposts without gloves.
In a nutshell, the assignment of manning the posts would be generally reserved for the less gifted athletes or those considered a bit lazy, overweight and unable to last the pace as outfield footballers.
This scenario afforded the goalkeepers with the least competitive edge amongst each other vying to be the most accomplished shot-stopper in the business.
In the late 60’s, the battle was left to the acrobatic pair of former Explorer Eleven, Namib Woestyn’s afro-haired goalie Eddy Cloete and Tigers agile net guard Nandos Mbako, aka “the Cat”.
The pair was arguably the only known goalkeepers with a safe pair of hands from their generation. This can be confirmed by their inclusion in the star-studded South West Africa (SWA) Bantu Invitational Eleven that toured South Africa in 1969.
By the time Buti Nandos skipped the country into exile in the mid-70’s – it was left to the light-skinned Namib Woestyn lanky shot-stopper to fight a lone battle and keep the fire burning.
In today’s edition of our weekly sports feature, Tales of the Legends, New Era Sport brings to you our esteemed readers the untold story of one of Namibia’s all-time finest shot-stoppers, as we profile the life of the likable late Eddy Cloete.
Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa
The Namib Woestyn football team in the late sixties was considered by many football pundits as a complete unit football-wise, laden with arguably the most lethal firing line under the stewardship of speedy wingers Straal Auchumeb and Daito Hagedoorn, complemented by the goal-scoring instincts of Axarob Doeseb and Haban Adams.
Add the ever-present physical duties of the burly fullbacks Ou Lazza Lombard, Titmab Jodt and teenager Bobby Kurtz, aided by the reliable last line of defence in the shape of handsome goalie Eddy Cloete – every coach would have loved to have such an appetizing line-up at their disposal.
Woestyn were not only dominating football in the western part of the country, the Desert Boys became an instant household name in domestic football with their fluent style of attacking football accompanied by breathtaking canon-like shots from range.
The exciting Kuisebmond outfit drew large crowds wherever they played, be it in Tsumeb, Keetmanshoop, Mariental, Tsumeb, Omaruru, Usakos, Windhoek, Karibib, Grootfontein, Otjiwarongo, Outjo or Okahandja – the team’s entertaining style of play captured the imagination of many a neutral football fan.
In the absence of league football in properly organized structures, football clubs used to compete in the fiercely contested knockout tournaments for trophies across the length and breadth of the country.
In those days, the coast was blessed with formidable representatives in the form of Blue Waters, Namib Woestyn, Explorer Eleven, Atlanta Chiefs (Swakopmund) and Eleven Arrows.
Interestingly, the abovementioned teams instilled fear into their inland opponents such as African Stars, Tigers, Black Africa, Pirates (Dolam), Rocco Swallows, Jungle Boys, Spoilers (Okahandja), Thistles (Khomasdal) and Orlando Pirates.
Eddy joined the “Desert Foxes” from neighbours Explorer Eleven. He quickly cemented his place in the starting line-up and went on to establish himself as one of the most reliable shot-stoppers in the business.
Such was Woestyn’s dominance in domestic knockout cup competitions that the club would become a toast of football supporters in towns like Keetmanshoop, Tsumeb and the city of lights Windhoek.
The coastal outfit’s best performance will be traced to their display en route to a cup final against Lemmy “Special” Narib’s inspired Orlando Pirates in the rescheduled cup final at the Katutura gravel B-field in 1970.
Ironically, the dangerous coastal side destroyed their opponents at will to set up a mouth-watering final against eternal rivals Orlando Pirates.
After the two football giants reached the final of the popular Joko Cup in Keetmanshoop, event organizers thought it wise to have the match rescheduled at a more central venue (Windhoek) when darkness set in at the candle-lit Tseiblaagte field in the southern capital following a physical scuffle between both sets of players.
Eddy was stationed between the posts with the equally acrobatic Abel Nero on the opposite side manning the sticks for the fired-up Ghosts.
Never in the history of domestic football had two football teams entered the field of play with such an enticing line-up.
And while the Buccaneers had the five- pronged attacking quartet of Willem Eichab, Daniel Koopman, Michael “Ou Pine” Pienaar, and the dangerous Lemmy Narib, ably supported by the clever midfield play of the slippery Gustav Bassieman Jimmy-Naruseb, in their firing line – the Kuisebmond outfit had their own weapon in the shape of Haban Adams, Straal Auchumeb, Axarob Doeseb and Daito Hagendoorn.
The stage was set and the fans could not have asked for a better football bonanza with many local fans shouting their lungs out for the visitors.
And who says mind games are new in modern football? – the hosts engaged in mind games as they totally hypnotized their opponents, galloping onto the field with their traditional all-black attire.
Just before kick-off, and within the blink of an eye, the Ghosts suddenly pulled off their look, like a chameleon, changing into the white, black-strip new jerseys – much to the amazement and admiration of their bemused opponents who were left to marvel at Pirates’ new gear.
Pirates defied the odds and came out victorious in the battle of the giants with speedy wingers Daniel and Willem on song on that particular day, causing havoc in the visitors’ rearguard with darting runs coupled by brutal canon-like shots.
After an action-packed 90 minutes of blood, sweat and tears, the fired-up Buccaneers won the tie hands down (5-2) to claim the silverware.
Few years later, the rivalry between the two giants continued when they were to go toe to toe again in another ill-tempered final in a knockout cup tourney carrying prize money of N$350,00, proudly sponsored by a businessman from Khorixas.
However, the coastal side were not keen to face another humiliation at the hands of the Doc Hardley-inspired Ghosts and demanded that the prize money of N$350,00 be divided equally between the two finalists.
Pirates would have none of that and took their case to the town’s municipal police officers for mediation. According to former Pirates legend Ou Lemmy, the businessman eventually paid the money over to Pirates after he signed an affidavit with the cops.
In between, Eddy would represent both the Western Invitational Eleven and subsequently South West Africa (SWA) Bantu Eleven with distinction.
He was to form an integral part of the well-balanced SWA Invitational side alongside Namib Woestyn teammate Tete Kangameni-Afrikaner that traveled all the way by train to South Africa for exhibition matches against local teams in Soweto, (Johannesburg), Vereeniging and Bloemfontein in 1969.
Apart from the Namib Woestyn pair of Eddy and Tete, the team boasted a reasonable coastal presence, spearheaded by Tommy Ushona, Gabes “Flying Fish” Mupupa, Ruby Kamulu, Heinrich Horongo Haufiku and Bossie Samaria (Bobby’s old man).
Two players from that traveling entourage abandoned the trip halfway during a stopover in Keetmanshoop – citing homesickness after two gruelling days cruising on the rails.
Never mind the setback, the SWA amateurs ran rings around the predominantly white combined invitational team of soldiers and police officers during the Bloemfontein leg.
Having taken an unassailable five-goal cushion going into the break, the visitors were on course for a comfortable victory but the kaki-clad Jappies had enough of being tossed around, running in circles like headless chickens, let alone the humiliating score line.
Without hesitation, the clearly annoyed and embarrassed men in camouflaged uniform ordered their opponents in no uncertain terms to no longer take aim at goal from close range – thus restricting the visitors to firing potshots from range in order to keep the scoreboard low and a bit more respectable.
To worsen matters, the boys from SWA were obliged to collect stray balls whenever the spherical object got kicked out of touch, even if they were not necessarily the chief beneficiaries from the restart. Sadly, the likeable soft-spoken shot-stopper exited the game of life in 1998, aged 58. May his soul rest in eternal peace.