… The rise and fall of the fearless ‘Spiderman’
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. The now deceased Orlando Pirates shot-stopper, the acrobatic Abel Christian Nero, known as ‘Spiderman’ in football circles, was for a while arguably the most popular goalkeeper in the business.
He was rated ahead of established net-guards Eddy Cloete (Namib Woestyn) Nandos ‘The Cat’ Mbako (Tigers) and Sham //Om-xabeb (Ramblers Katutura (Ramkat) Ben Tembo (Eleven Arrows) and six-fingered giant Ripuree Hoveka (African Stars).
Back in the day, dozens of athletes only became goalkeepers by default, as the position in the last line of defense was always reserved for less talented footballers or those who experienced slight weight problems.
However, Abel Nero was a bit special. Unlike many of his peers in the goalkeeping department who were considered sissies, Bro Abes was your typical Nama boy from the southern part of the country: stubborn, fearless and above all, always prepared to roll with the punches, as he would stick to his guns, irrespective of circumstances.
Bro Abes instilled a sense of awe and respect in marauding strikers with his breathtaking saves. An excellent shot-stopper, he possessed all the required attributes of a complete goalie.
This weel New Era Sport relives some of his great memories in the game of football, nephewed by a turbulent journey and asks why he was slapped with a life ban from all football-related activities while still at the pinnacle of his blossoming football career.
In today’s edition, we profile the life of one of the finest shot-stoppers in Namibian history, Abel Nero.
Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa
Without an iota of doubt, Abel Christian Nero was one of the greatest athletes ever to emerge from the southern part of then South West Africa (SWA), as it was known back in the day.
The now departed shot-stopper was up there with the very best and can be proudly spoken of in the same breath as Tieb Goliath, Steve ‘Kalamazoo’ Stephanus, Alu Hummel, Norries Goraseb, Killer Kamberipa, Dokes Hange, Phony Hummel, Marry Gariseb and in the intervening years Lucky Boostander, Masepo Dausab and Barnes Jansen.
Born in Mariental in the semi-desert Karas Region in 1947, Nero resurfaced in the city of lights (Windhoek) in the mid-60s in search of better employment opportunities. His arrival here coincided with the inevitable retirement of Aloys Taylor, the regular goalie of Katutura giants Orlando Pirates FC.
Nero’s legacy is amongst many retired and deceased footballers to whom local football owes a massive debt of gratitude and who are in dire need of some kind of acknowledgement.
And while a significant chunk of former greats have gone the way of all flesh and died – those who are still lingering aimlessly around, struggling to keep hunger at bay, should be without further delay inducted into the Hall of Fame and their names engraved in the golden pages of our archives. One such athlete is doubtlessly Abel Nero.
The arrival of Bro Abes between the posts for the Ghosts stabilised a previously shaky rearguard, manned by bow-legged but versatile defender Frederick ‘Nana’ Goamab, John ‘Jackal Trap’ Awarab and the robust Mathews ‘Ou Growwes’ Namaseb (late).
Corporate business must team up with the football governing body, the Namibia Football Association (NFA) and assist with the establishment of a fund and subsequently advocate for the construction of a Hall of Fame, where former athletes are officially recognised with certain benefits.
Needless to say, such a noble undertaking is likely to shake off their low self-esteem mode and at the same time reclaim their true identity and respect within the community. Apart from his exploits between the sticks, the bulky Bro Nero was not a saint at all and would sporadically find himself in hot water with match officials and opposing teams.
Whilst at the peak of his abbreviated football career in the early 70s, Nero was made to face the wrath of local football administrators.
As fate would dictate, Nero and his trusted deputy and chief partner in crime, the late Jeremiah ‘Daggas’ Hochobeb, were both slapped with a life ban from all football-related activities for their habitual on and off the field antics.
Both were equally great goalkeepers, but also proved a nightmare when it came down to discipline. The pair would engage in physical fights against the opposition and made it their sole beat to confront referees at the slightest provocation.
“You must remember that Nero and Daggas were strongly built blokes, sharing exactly the same characteristics, short-fused and never shied away from physical confrontations,” recalls former teammate and club legend Lemmy Narib.
In 1971, the pair’s flirtation with the spherical object was abruptly brought to a premature halt when the Central Football Association under the stewardship of shrewd politician Cephas Conradie (late) grounded the troublesome goalies for life after they bliksemed the living daylights out of fellow players, including the referee, during a hotly contested match.
Their fellow teammates, John Awarab and the beanpole robust defender Izaak ‘Whoops’ Gariseb, also received a stern warning to refrain from violent conduct, while Pirates were suspended for the entire season.
Strangely, the Ghosts’ players did not abandon ship and stayed put, playing rugby instead to keep themselves fit during the club’s one-year long suspension.
The Ghosts returned to action in 1972, sweeping all before them in brutal fashion during numerous knockout cup competitions across the country.
Tarzan look-alike, bow-legged goalie Obed Kapangurua ‘Gorilla’ Kapepu, a notorious toughie from the ‘kassie’ was roped in to fill the void left by Nero and Daggas.
A few months later, the Ghosts hit the jackpot when a stocky young goalkeeper going by the name of Japhet Shapama ‘Bump Jive’ Hellao, emerged like manna from heaven via Augustineum High School.
The godsent youthful goalie was immediately installed as the Ghosts’ number one and as they say, the rest is history.
In the meantime, Bro Nero, a completely changed fellah from his naughty days, would now be seen clad in his trademark pair of shorts, retreated into obscurity until his mysterious death in 1988.
Eyewitnesses revealed that the brother collapsed one day and sadly took a bow from the game of life, aged 41 years, while going through his daily routine at his favourite watering hole, Bonarora, at the ‘Big Shops’ at Katutura Central Shopping Complex.
May his soul rest in eternal peace.