… conquering the soccer fraternity
Freelance journalist Jeremiah Ndjoze takes you, our esteemed readers, through the dramatic life of ‘Jakkals’, which was never free of disappointments, yet never ceased to amaze.
In the 1990s, it was almost much easier for one to be spoilt for choice, especially when drawing up a list of relentless attacking midfielders in the country. However, only a few of these athletes matched the ball-handling prowess and astonishing skill of one Johannes ‘Congo’ Hindjou.
Verily, only a few footballers in Namibia were genuinely both a supplier of great goals and scorer of breathtaking goals – but Congo was both in his heyday. In the amateur leagues, the Okahandja native demonstrated a terrifying penchant for powerful and telling long-range passes, enduring overlaps and stunning finishing touches.
It is no surprise that Jamanuka Tjihero, then a talent scout for the Okahandja-based Premiership outfit Liverpool, used every trick in his arsenal, including KFC chicken buckets, in a desperate quest to lure the lanky athlete to the premiership.
The club went as far as trying to persuade the boy’s mother to coerce him in joining the club but to no avail. It was in September 1994 and to the dismay of his fellow teammates at Golden Arrows, that Congo eventually jumped ship and joined Liverpool.
That same year he won the Classic Cup with the premiership side and was voted Player of the Tournament that saw him walk away with a golden boot award, accompanied by a handsome N$2,000 prize. Christmas, he says, came early that year for the Hindjou household.
“In those days, N$2,000 was a lot of money and I became the main man in town. I also received the winning bonus, like everybody else, and gave it to my mother as a special treat,” he says, choosing not to reveal more about the gift.
Joining the big league turned out to be a worthwhile decision for the young man, who during his boyhood spent a significant chunk of his time carrying kit bags for the likes of Seven Endjala, Killian Kavari, Ebson Kauta, Mannetjie Kaimu, Fire Kahuikee and others during their time at Young Stars, another renowned outfit from the garden town.
More so, now that he was made to play alongside Endjala, Kavari and other football greats that included Bimbo Tjihero, Namene Phillemon, boyhood buddy Erastus Gariseb, Donald Tjikune, the late Sylvanus ‘Selly’ Ndjambari, China Utoni, Mbamba Kasepe and Max Gamseb – to mention just a few – under the stewardship of the Tjihero brothers Albert and Jamanuka and brother in law, the great Oscar ‘Silver Fox’ Mengo.
“I won many trophies with ‘Lipapa.’ Oscar Mengo and the Tjiheros were excellent leaders, who always tried their best to inculcate that team spirit amongst the players prevailed at all time,” Congo reminisced.
It was during his time at Liverpool that the slippery attacking midfielder got his first call-up for national duty as a squad member for the under-20 team that traveled to Germany, Finland and Lesotho in 1995. He went on to earn 10 caps, scoring four goals for his team in the process.
In 1996 – fresh after scooping the coveted Young Sportsman of the Year Award – Congo got his first call-up for the national senior football team, the Brave Warriors.
“I played my first game that same year against Botswana in Gaborone, which ended goalless and scored my first goal for the Warriors against Botswana in the return leg at Windhoek’s Independence Stadium. I netted two of the six goals in that particular match. We won 6-0”.
Today, Congo remains the highest capped national team player with 69 games, in which he scored 10 goals, making him the second highest goal scorer. It should suffice to mention that Congo was the goal scorer of that pivotal goal against Gabon that propelled Namibia to reach the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Burkina Faso in 1998, under the watchful eye of coach Rusten Mogane, with Peter Uberjahn as technical director.
Admittedly, he will forever be grateful to then under-20 mentor Eric Muinjo, who gave him his first shot at national level, as well as the late Romanian football guru, Ted Dumitru, who rewarded with him the captain’s armband for the first time.
“I went onto skipper the senior national team for more than 20 matches between 2001 and 2006,” he recalls. During his spell with the Brave Warriors ‘Jakkals’ landed on the shores of more than 30 African countries, eight in Europe, three in Asia and two in North America
Sadly, his stint in the South African Premiership was cut short due to an unfortunate fallout between his parent club, Liverpool, and South African Premiership outfit Black Leopards. However, he is quick to indicate that he had a decent spell with Malaysia’s Saab FC.
He still boasts the bragging right as having the highest transfer money paid by a local team for his clearance, when Civics FC paid N$70,000 for his transfer from Black Leopards in 2002.
Congo had a coaching stint with his hometown team, Spoilers FC, in the second tier division for one season before joining Eleven Arrows as assistant coach. He later took over the coaching reigns as head coach for one and a half seasons and won the coveted leo NFA Cup with the seasiders.
The likable but now retired footballer has been the mayor of Okahandja since 2015. In the meantime, Hindjou has undergone various training in entrepreneurial studies and also holds a Confederation of African Football (CAF) B Coaching License. – New Era Weekend.