Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa
Windhoek-For starters, both possessed contrasting styles of play, whereas Doc Hardly was a kind of false number 9 in modern football, Oscar Mengo was your typical old-fashioned number 10, a versatile athlete who quite often joined the defence when the need arose.
The latter was a brilliant reader of the game and excellent passer of the ball whilst weighing in with the odd goal when least expected.
Generally speaking, Doc was in a class of his own, blessed with a phenomenal unbelievable first touch, good dribbler and packed a decent shot in both feet.
The athletically built gap-toothed playmaker just had that rare ability to dictate the pace of the game at will at any given time, was brilliant reader of the game and a dead ball specialist. He was doubtlessly a complete footballer with a decent eye for goal.
Confirming his goal-scoring prowess, his record for the highest number of goals scored in a single match still stands up to this day in the South African National Professional Soccer League since 1977.
The Grootfontein-born lad netted an amazing tally of nine goals against lower division opponents Richmond Stars in the Benson & Hedges knockout cup, featuring for Max “Slimkat” Mbaeva’s PSL outfit Lamontville Golden Arrows, back in the day.
With only a year separating the two football giants in birth, both started chasing leather almost at the same time and went on to establish themselves as great athletes with their respective teams.
Fox was born in 1952 in the garden town (Okahandja) while Doc was born a year later (1953) in Grootfontein.
Both athletes showed early signs of enormous extraordinary skills with their respective clubs Black Beauty Chiefs (BBC) and Poison Cobra, respectively.
However, it was not until the pair relocated to the city of lights (Windhoek) where they rose to prominence.
Mengo joined the newly formed Flames FC whilst Hardly found refuge with Tsumeb outfit Chief Santos before he was lured to Windhoek.
Next stop was the bigger stage that saw Doc snapped up by Katutura giants Orlando Pirates after the star studded Herbert Conradie’s led Cobra folded whilst the Fox joined forces with Katutura glamour football club African Stars.
Whereas Doc found himself surrounded by greats in the mould of Lemmy Special Narib, Ambrossius Vyff, Eric Muinjo, Steve Stephanus, Alu Hummel and Norries Goraseb, Oscar had to shoulder an average Stars squad on his own alongside ageing club stalwarts Mike Kangova Pack and Amos “Superman” Tjombe manning a leaky defence.
His arrival at Stars coincided with the exodus of a decent chunk of the Reds’ fading old guard as the club embarked on a turnaround strategy by roping in a significant number of young footballers.
At the other end, Doc became the mainstay of the Ghosts’ already smooth sailing ship pulling the strings in the middle of the park as a free-scoring attacking midfielder.
When the South West Africa Bantu Invitational team travelled to South Africa for the biannual South African Provincial Impala Cup in 1974, it was obvious that Doc and Fox would lead the team’s firing line alongside the equally dangerous trio of Pius “Garrincha” Eigowab, Albert Louw and Willem Eichab.
Well, history would reveal that the SWA amateurs claimed their first ever silverware at provincial level in the final at the packed to rafters Orlando stadium in Soweto in the curtain raiser of the clash of the titans between Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.
Soon afterwards, the quartet of Doc, Fox, Garrincha and Steve were signed by Soweto giants Chiefs and Pirates while Fox and Eigowab joined compatriot Hermann “Pele” Blaschke at Chiefs, and Doc and Steve went in the opposite direction resurfacing at the Ghosts where they were to team up with the legendary Jomo “Troublemaker” Sono.
Despite the unfamiliar conditions of professional football, the players managed to establish themselves with their respective new teams.
Sadly, Fox became homesick and made a surprise retreat to his beloved land of birth rejoining Stars. The sharp shooting Eigowab was sold to unfashionable Kwamashu side African Wanderers before ending up in the defiant Federation Football League for coloureds and Indians.
The old saying that you cannot have two bulls in the same kraal played its hand at Pirates as Doc was frozen out of the Ghosts nest because of differences with Pirates blue-eyed boy Jomo Sono. He was eventually shipped off to Durban outfit Golden Arrows.
After a fruitful career in South Africa, Doc eventually returned to his native land to rejoin parent club Orlando Pirates in the late seventies.
He led the Ghosts to victory in the 2nd edition of the Mainstay Cup against bitter rivals Black Africa in 1978 and went on to steer the Buccaneers ship to greater heights, winning several high profile knockout tourneys during an illustrious football career.
In terms of silverware, Silver Fox won more trophies with Stars than Doc did at the Ghosts but that should not take away the unmatched football flamboyance of the Ghosts playmaker’s magical virtuosity.
Mengo almost single-handedly won the double for the rejuvenated Reds, the Mainstay Cup and National league during the maiden season of multi-racial football in 1977.
The two football geniuses were paired together again when South West Africa (SWA) dispatched probably its strongest team to the annual South African Provincial competition the Currie Cup in Orkney, Western Transvaal in 1981.
In several one-on-one interviews and conversations with former football greats, Mengo received overwhelming approval from the majority, but these are just personal opinions or rather sentiments from individuals, not necessarily the ultimate reality.
My personal observation is: Doc’s arrogance and sheer flamboyance on the football pitch might have had won him very few friends if any as he was toying around his opponents in the same manner a kid would toss a six-pence coin.
He would often walk with the ball executing all kinds of tricks with the spherical object much to the chagrin of his clearly irritated opponents.
In my opinion, ball-wise, technique, speed and skill, Doc was a cut above the rest but Silver Fox was without an iota of doubt the most influential footballer of his generation.
The latter’s direct style of play accompanied by a rare football intelligence yet to be witnessed in our neck of the woods made him the envy of football fans across the length and breadth of the country.
To sum it up, Doc was more of a South American kind of footballer whilst Fox’ game was modelled on the European direct style of play.