Freelance journalist Jeremiah Ndjoze looks into the meteoric rise of one of Namibia’s most gifted midfielders from humble beginnings in the dusty streets of Nau-Aib to super stardom, including his exploits in business and politics.
The American author and founding father Thomas Jefferson once said: “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal and nothing on earth can help a man with the wrong attitude”.
The former part of the saying applies in every sense to the life and success of Okahandja-born Congo Hindjou, one of Namibia’s most acclaimed playmakers on the football pitch, known as Jakkals amongst his peers in football circles.
He may not have been fortunate enough to strike a lucrative deal with European clubs, like some of his former Brave Warriors teammates such as Collin Benjamin, nor did he get the opportunity to ball out of control and wallow in the freely flowing cash enjoyed by the likes of Razundara ‘Razzie’ Tjikuzu.
However, Congo’s football career never took a step backwards until 2013 when he voluntarily traded his much revered number 15 jersey in for sharp suits and boardroom politics.
He is living proof that while some degree of success can be attributed to good fortune, there exists no greater contributing factor than the person’s own discipline, dedication and determination. It is indeed through these triple-D attributes that one is able to resist succumbing to external pressure.
Today, the ‘Slippery Fox’ does not only boasts a successful resume as a noted footballer on the field of play, including an incredible coaching career to his credit – having won the Leo NFA Cup during his stint at Eleven Arrows – he is an established entrepreneur with business interests in the fishing and construction industries, amongst others.
“I have shares in Tukondja Trading Enterprises and also have a Red Crab quota. In addition, I have shares in Centani Investment. Nonetheless, football is my first love and passion, one of the things that I can safely say is that I’m damn good at, hence my hands-on involvement in the Namibia Football Players Union (NAFPU),” Congo revealed.
The trade unionist
Alongside former Brave Warriors teammates, Denzil Bruwer and Sylvester ‘Lolito’ Goraseb, the trio founded NAFPU in 2008 that saw Congo installed as first vice president, deputised by Jacqueline van Wyk as the second deputy president.
Goraseb was at the helm of the trade union, while Donnely Nel, an active footballer at the time was appointed as treasurer. Currently, the players’ union has been placed under the stewardship of outspoken unionist Olsen ‘Commisar’ Kahiriri, in the capacity of secretary general.
NAFPU is geared to promoting the welfare of footballers while advocating for professional behaviour and discipline among in their ranks.
Johannes Ngumeritiza ‘Kongoo’ Hindjou was born at Farm Ombu Jotjimbari (which has since undergone change of ownership and is nowadays the sole property of northern business mogul Benny Zaauruka) situated approximately 35 km northeast of the garden town Okahandja.
Congo was raised by his mother, Eva, and now deceased father, Pikiro Hindjou, in a family of four boys and one girl. He reminisced on his humble upbringing with fond memories, maintaining that it was tough and that his parents worked hard to provide for a family of 10, that included his cousins.
“During those days, pap and vleis – or better still with milk – were the main ingredients of our daily diet. Surely, I must confess my parents did a sterling job, because I can’t recall a day when we retired to bed on empty stomachs or attended school classes without having eaten anything,” he said nostalgically.
He went to further his secondary education at the Okahandja High School. Nowadays, the 40-year old retired football virtuoso is a proud father of two sons and gets excited when he speaks about his offspring. Yet more excitement oozes out of the man when he reflects on his astonishing football journey, particularly during the most trying times.
His story starts like that of every second African football hero; however the plot thickens as one assesses the circumstances surrounding the key events in his life.
Congo started playing football on the streets of his hometown, Nau-Aib (Okahandja’s largest residential area). Yes, the streets were dusty, the players were barefoot and more often than not, the ball belonged to the less talented boy from affluent parents.
Congo laughs… when it was game time, one had to be nice to the ball owner, he says. Looking back, the footballer-cum entrepreneur-turned-politician reflects on a time when the only thing that mattered to him was the beautiful game of football.
“We had a football team in our ‘kasie’ going by the name of Kaizer Chiefs. We mostly played against teams from other sections in the location and I’m not bragging when I tell you that we won most tournaments, because we had a ‘killer’ team with players like Elias Kukuri, my cousin Kapiopio Kotjipati, Erastus Kapolo, Kameni Kandetu (late), Saka Modise and many others,” he enthused.
Success struck in his teens when he joined a local team of predominantly Ovaherero-speaking players Morocco City Stars at the age of 15 for his first taste of organised football in a competitive environment.
However, he only used that team as a springboard to realise his ‘dream team’ when barely four months later he was persuaded to join forces with Golden Arrows at the invitation of another football legend, Nokovambo ‘Chicken’ Kaengurova.
“Whenever I think of my time at Arrows, tears always flow down my cheeks because we were like one big happy family. Our coach, schoolteacher Afrikaner, was like a father figure to all of us, while his spouse Matron Afrikaner also treated us like her own children, providing us with everything from clothing to food,” Congo recalled.
Golden Arrows, Congo recalls, were giant-killers of note wreaking havoc in knockout football tourneys around towns, such as Okahandja, Omaruru and Karibib. The team even became party poopers for Premier League campaigners that included Khomasdal outfit Young Ones during highly contested knockout tourneys in Windhoek.
The turning point for Congo arrived when his exploits at his amateur club caught the eyes of talent scouts from the now defunct Okahandja-based Premier League outfit Liverpool FC. “I didn’t want to leave but I had to if I was to propel my football career to the next level”.
Congo reveals with a humorous naughty laugh that all manner of tricks were used to persuade him to join the premiership side.
“Jamanuka Tjihero always came to my parents’ house, took me for a drive to Windhoek where he would treat me to Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and even provided me with pocket money, but the next day I’d be back at Arrows training ground instead of Liverpool.”
– This report first appeared in New Era Weekend.
* Read Part 2 of Congo’s dramatic life in topflight football, business and politics in the next edition of New Era Weekend.