The name Bimbo Tjihero will ring in the memory of many a football fan for years to come due to his heroic exploits on the football field.
The lanky defender single-handedly took the game by the scruff of the neck to save the Brave Warriors from the jaws of defeat against the star-studded Bafana Bafana in a crucial COSAFA Cup clash of the titans at a packed to rafters Independence stadium in 1998.
The light-skinned lanky centre back, wearing the captain’s armband, took a bold decision on his tiny shoulders when he calmly stationed himself behind the spherical object for a dead ball situation in the dying minutes of the match.
Despite roars from the large crowd, one could hear the sound of a needle falling on the floor as the entire crowd held their breath in what could be described as the last kick of a dying horse.
With hosts Namibia trailing 2-1 in the referee’s optional time, Bimbo let fly with a vicious grass-cutter that sliced through the legs of a cluster of defenders, leaving Bafana Bafana’s dreadlocked goalie, Brian Baloyi, catching flies (2-2).
The equalising goal forced the match into extra-time and subsequently into the dreaded golden goal rule, that saw the Brave Warriors emerged victors through Berlin ‘Pancho’ Auchumeb’s close range goal – and as they say, the rest is history.
In today’s edition of your favourite weekly feature, Tales of the Legends, New Era Sport profiles the football journey of this unheralded local hero, Bimbo Tjihero.
Cometh the hour Cometh the man
Nowadays a successful part-time commercial farmer, also doubling as marketing manager at the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) – the former Liverpool defender has certainly left a long lasting legacy in the annals of domestic football.
Born in the Garden town of Okahandja young Bimbo’s genes dictated he would be a footballer of note. After all, his old man, Festus Tjihero, was a no-nonsense defender with the now defunct Zebras Football Club (Okahandja) in the late 50s.
Elder brothers Albert and Jamanuka also made their presence felt in domestic football, while the versatile Albert (Hoonjo) is arguably the finest central defender the country has ever produced.
He is among a rare breed of siblings to have played in the same squad, apart from the Benfica brothers, Daddy, Packs and Lovey, the Muatunga siblings, Phello, Koko, Hanga and Phello jr, the Willemse brothers Lance, Dean, Johnny and Danny, Samaria brothers Killa, Connie and Temuh, Lesley and Justice Basson, Francis siblings Richo and Tiger, as well as the Damaseb brothers and cousins combination of Orlando, Pele, Steven, Pieces, Stu and Indies.
A product of the St Joseph’s Secondary School (Döbra) Bimbo started playing competitive football for unfashionable Nau Aib outfit Benoni United FC in unofficial low-key knockout tourneys.
He only rose to prominence when he went to further his schooling at Dobra near Windhoek. Where he featured for a hostel team before he graduated to the school’s first team under the stewardship of shrewd mentor and schoolteacher Willem Hans.
Unlike many of his peers, who started making inroads in organised structures by starting their careers in the big teams’ second strings, young Bimbo was thrown in at the deep end as he arrived at boyhood team African Stars, coincidently at the same time as his elder brother, Albert, was getting a bit long in the tooth.
Stepping into the big shoes of his brother was always going to be an unenviable task to fulfill, but he took it on his chin and came out with flying colours, as could be attested by his commanding display in the heart of the Reds’ rearguard alongside the cool-as-cucumber centre partner Nico Hindjou.
However, his arrival at Stars also coincided with Namibia’s democracy that brought with it a few pertinent changes that were to shape the landscape of many of the country’s inhabitants.
The unsuspecting young fellow found himself caught between the devil and the deep blue sea after his elder brothers, Albert and Jamanuka, as well as his influential brother in law, the legendary Oscar ‘Silver Fox’ Mengo developed itchy feet.
The group broke away from Stars to form their own team, Liverpool Football Club, which they relocated to their hometown, Okahandja.
In no time the wide-awake Mengo assembled a decent squad and acquired the valuable services of former Durban Bush Bucks FC (PSL) ball juggler Raphael Mlungisi Ngubane, aka ‘Professor’, as player/coach.
Bimbo was to form the spine of the newly formed team, playing alongside his brother Albert, who came out of retirement to give the newly formed team some sort of impetus.
It was not long before his consistent display in the heart of Liverpool’s defense caught the eye of national selectors. Bimbo was duly installed into the Brave Warriors squad and went on to make the number 5 jersey his personal property.
Bimbo became an integral part of the revamped Brave Warriors under the mentorship of German import Peter Uberjahn and Rusten Zukhile Mogane.
The pair was at the helm when the resurgent Warriors started to make serious inroads in continental football turning the Windhoek Independence Stadium into a slaughterhouse for many visiting teams, including the great Ivory Coast.
His near-faultless display and leadership qualities was rewarded with the captain’s armband, a task he executed with great maturity that belied his rookie tag.
In addition, a dead ball specialist, the Okahandja-born lad was also tasked to take crucial spot kicks – a responsibility he executed with a great measure of virtuosity.
Bimbo also represented the country’s flagship league Invitational Eleven against the visiting PSL side, Light-body Santos.
He went on to become a pillar of strength in the heart of the close-knit Warriors’ backline alongside Orlando Haraseb, Tiger Goagoseb, Slice Ouseb, Sylvester Ndjambari, China Utoni and Phillip Gairiseb.
At club level, Bimbo won almost everything there was to be won, including the coveted NFA Cup, Castle Cup and have represented the country in the CAF Club Championships.
He was part of the invincible Brave Warriors squad that caused havoc in the maiden edition of the annual COSAFA Cup in 1997 steering Namibia to the final, only to stumble against Zambia.
Bimbo became an instant hero when his last-minute free kick flew past Brian Baloyi to bring the teams on level terms (3-3). He also netted from the penalty spot during the penalty shootout, which Namibia won against the then reigning African champions, South Africa.
Namibia repeated the feat against the same opponents the following year through substitute Berlin Auchumeb’s sudden death goal from Congo Hindjou’s assist. The Warriors followed up that victory with qualification to the AFCON finals in Burkina Faso in 1998.
Although debutants Namibia failed to win a match during the three-match group stage, the team put up a gallant performance and was hailed as the comeback team of the two-week tourney.
The Namibian amateurs came from three goals down against the Joel Tiehi’s inspired Ivory Coast (3-3) only to concede an unfortunate goal in the dying minutes to narrowly lose the tie 4-3 in an unforgettable seven-goal thriller.