Three times Namibia Premiership (NPL) champions Civics FC is an institution in self-reflection after losing a significant chunk of their playing personnel to death at an alarming rate never experienced by any other sporting entity in our neck of the woods.
A year hardly passes without the Mighty Civilians finding themselves embroiled in mourning and bidding farewell to some of their star footballers.
Just as the club was coming to terms with the death of former club stalwart, hard-as-nails Brave Warriors defender Franklin “Piele” April, another tragedy has struck the exciting maroon and white stripped Khomasdal outfit.
One of the Civilians’ most decorated ball jugglers, one Tugela Tuyeni tragically died in a motor vehicle accident on the eve of Christmas last December.
The likeable ebony-skinned retired attacking midfielder took a bow from the game of life as a result of a horrific car accident while travelling to the north during the festive season.
His departure follows short on the heels of a number of Civics players who died under mysterious circumstances.
The marathon list of Civilians who have mysteriously gone West is scary enough to send shivers running riot in the bellies of hardened criminals.
It all started with the departure of prolific goal poacher Deon Brooks, net guard Eugene “Rex” English, promising fullback Pekara Kaaheke, Richard Ventura (striker), Victor Helu and Lucas “Shoes” Orr (midfielders), burly Zimbabwean net buster Wilbert Masembe, tough tackling defender Deon “Ralla” Klaaste, skillful playmaker Patrick Jaegger, Mentos Hipondoka Jnr, Bobby Kaapama, Franklin April (all defenders) and lately midfield maestro Tugela Tuyeni.
To be precise, the shocking figure of thirteen departed Civilian footballers constitutes an entire football team complemented by the luxury of two substitutes.
In today’s edition of your favourite weekly sports feature Tales of the Legends detailing institutional memories of local sports legends past and present, New Era Sport unleashes the life journey of one of the finest midfielders of his generation.
Former Blue Waters and Civics football clubs’ midfielder Tugeni Tuyela, whose promising football career started at coastal outfit Blue Boys FC in Swakopmund as a barefoot toddler barely out of his pair of shorts, literally spent his infant years of his shortened life in exile.
Born on the 2nd of May 1977 at the small village of Onekwaya in the Ohangwena Region – the first born of eleven siblings – Tugela fled into exile as a little boy. He was part and parcel of the liberation struggle in the real sense of the word.
The young boy was exposed to all sorts of life-threatening dangers tailing his parents to various refugee camps in Angola and Zambia respectively during Namibia’s liberation war against the South African apartheid regime.
His next destination was Swakopmund where he was placed in the care of his aunt to start his primary education until he completed his secondary education at Namibia’s most revered holiday resort.
It was at secondary school that his amazing football virtuosity was spotted by talent scouts. The attacking midfielder was rewarded with a call-up to the Erongo regional football invitational eleven and was subsequently snapped up by local club Blue Boys FC.
Apart from being blessed with an amazing first touch and brilliant vision, Tugela proved to be an excellent passer of the ball while packing a decent shot from range as he continued to capture the imagination of football followers.
Former Blue Waters’ honcho Hennie Dawid, a former club stalwart himself, had seen enough of Tugela’s amazing talent. He dangled a juicy carrot in the face of the young man with the ultimate aim of luring him to the Birds’ nest and as they say, the rest is history.
In no time, Tugela established himself as a vital cog in the Birds’ engine room. His direct style of play made him an instant fan favourite as he sprayed telling passes to the strikers with the precision of a seasoned footballer.
Next stop was Germany where the skillful midfielder tried his luck with a few teams in the lower divisions but as fate would dictate, he was unable to convince potential suitors for a professional contract.
After the disappointment of failing to land a pro contract in Germany, Tugela returned to his native land a much better player when he rejoined former team Blue Waters.
He announced his return in the Birds’ midfield with breathtaking performances as he almost single-handedly propelled the Birds to the coveted Namibia Premiership (NPL) title.
Tugela was eventually lured to the city of lights (Windhoek) by the deep pockets of new Civilians’ owner Austrian migrant Helmuth Scharnowsky where he rose to prominence with five-star displays week in and week out for the new-look Civilians.
His presence in the resurgent Civilians’ line-up propelled the Khomasdal outfit to a record-breaking three consecutive Namibia Premier League titles, paving the way for participation in the highly competitive CAF Club Champions League.
The Namibian champions surprised friend and foe by reaching the second round of preliminaries – dispatching Angolan opponents Sagrada Esperande before losing to African powerhouse Asec Mimosa on their third assault of the continental showpiece.
The Civilians suffered early exit against Supersport United (SA) and Pedro Aletico de Luanda respectively in their previous attempts.
His near faultless displays for Civics convinced national coaches to call him up for the Brave Warriors. Despite his rookie tag, the tireless slippery midfielder took little time to cement a starting berth in the revamped Warriors line-up.
Tugela was given his national senior team debut by the shrewd late Zambian coach Ben Bamfuchile in an international friendly against the visiting Malawi.
He rewarded the Zambian’s trust in him on the big stage with the hosts’ solitary goal in the 4-1 loss at the hands of the full strength visiting Malawians at Windhoek’s Independence Stadium on the 26th of March 2008.
Notwithstanding his impressive performance, the silky midfielder missed out on selection for the Warriors squad that qualified for the 26th edition the biannual AFCON finals in Ghana 2008 despite playing a prominent role during the qualifiers.
Back at club level, the nimble-footed midfielder would be sporadically installed as stand-in captain for the injury-prone regular skipper Amos “the Rock of Gibraltar” Shiyuka.
With time passing by and growing a bit long in the tooth, the versatile playmaker had a fairly short stint with incumbent Namibian champions Tigers before he hung up his trusted togs.