Tales of the legends: The man who changed the face of Namibian football

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… Bamba Ngasebe – from refugee to revered footballer

Much-traveled Congolese lanky attacking midfielder Bamba Ngasebe made waves early on with a flurry of near-faultless performances that announced him as a potential match winner.
New Era Sport caught up with the Congolese refugee as he relives his journey in domestic football following successful stints with Premiership giants Life Fighters, Liverpool and Chief Santos Football Clubs.

Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa
Windhoek

Bamba Ngasebe was born in the Zairian commercial hub, Kinshasa, in what is today the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 1 February 1967. The well-built tallish and skinny ball juggler grew up in the busy streets of Kinshasa, where he honed his football skills as a youngster barely out of his shorts.

Like many young boys his age, Bamba aged 13 started playing competitive football with local club Matti-Mabe’s second strings, alongside elder brother. The club served as a feeder team for local giants Daring Club Motema Pembe.

His next stop was the CIS Imana Football Academy before joining the semi professional ranks at Mabuilu FC – one of the three football giants in the then Zaire (DRC) alongside Daring Club Motema Pembe and Vita Club.

A tireless attacking midfielder, Bamba was equally comfortable playing on both flanks. After two solid seasons with his hometown club, he left the war-torn country and went to Angola in search of greener pastures.

Unfortunately, his late arrival cost him a lucrative contract with local giants Pedro Atletico as he could not make it in time for the scheduled trials in 1990.

He resurfaced in freshly Independent Namibia the following year and found himself confined to the Osire refugee camp in the Omatako region, where Bamba would find solace in playing in small knockout tournaments with farmworkers from adjacent settlements.

It was during one of these popular tourneys at the Osire refugee camp that Bamba was spotted by a local police officer. The cop happened to be good friends with well-known youth football coach, Ngaa Katjiuongua, a schoolteacher at Otjiwarongo.

He tipped his buddy off about the exploits of the lanky Congolese playmaker and Katjiuongua, who was at the time also coaching local club Life Fighters, tiptoed to Osire to persuade Ngasebe to join forces with ‘Okahirona’, as Life Fighters are affectionately known amongst ardent fans.

“Life Fighters were competing in a knockout tournament in Otjiwarongo, but I did not play on that particular day and only watched from the stands because my paperwork needed to be sorted out first,” recalls Ngasebe.

Ngasebe could not have had asked for a better baptism in domestic topflight football as he made his debut for his new team against bitter rivals African Stars at the Mokati stadium in 1991.

His impressive display convinced club management to fast-track his relocation from the refugee camp so that he could be closer to his teammates and he was soon stationed at the Mbako’s home in Otjiwarongo.

After a couple of sterling displays with the purple and white strip outfit – former African Stars goalie Norii Kaanjuka, who had in the interim shifted his allegiance to newly formed Okahandja outfit Liverpool Football Club, resolved to keep an eagle eye on the silky Congolese playmaker.

“From what I later understood, Norii called Oscar Mengo and told him about me and before I knew, I got a call from Osire from an official who informed me that Mengo, was urgently looking for me.”

A day after their telephonic conversation, Ngasebe, received two unannounced blokes darkening his door in the shape of Kaanjuka and Jamanuka Tjihero. The pair managed to smooth-talk Ngasebe… and as they say, the rest is history.
“I came to Windhoek and stayed for a week at Oscar’s home in Khomasdal, before I was taken to Okahandja to my new base,” he recalls.

Ngasebe made his debut for Liverpoool against the ‘Kings of the Night’ Young Ones at the SKW stadium in a match that ended in a one-all stalemate under floodlights.
“After that, we played in a mini tournament at Karibib against African Stars. We lost, but there was some disharmony amongst the players and I decided to go back to the refugee camp in Osire”.

However, it was not long before Albert Tjihero intervened and managed to convince the Congolese refugee to return to the club.

“Well, I loved the club and had no hesitation giving it a second try. Upon my return, things proved to be much better, as the team started to string decent results together, aided by the arrival of young Congo Hindjou and other exciting youngsters who beefed up the squad significantly.”

The lanky Congolese midfielder became the toast of the Nau Aib outfit under the tutelage of head coach Jamanuka Tjihero and technical director Raphael Mlungusi Ngubane, aka ‘Professor’.

His combination in the middle of the park with new kid on the block and sensational attacking midfielder Jakkals Hindjou made Liverpool the most exciting team to watch and doubtlessly the team to beat in domestic football.

Performance on the field yielded success and saw the fired-up boys from the garden town sweep their opponents aside en route to claiming several high profile knockout tourneys.

These included victories in the much-sought-after Castle Classics Trophy, Metropolitan Cup and a runner place spot in the topflight league. The beanpole midfielder was also at the forefront when he almost single-handedly masterminded Liverpool’s shock win in the Easter tournament.

Liverpool went into the match as underdogs, but the unfashionable Garden Town outfit defeated their much-fancied opponents Orlando Pirates in an exciting final at Independence Stadium in Windhoek in April 1994.

Ngasebe netted the goal of the match to give his team a well-deserved victory – much to the chagrin of the Ghosts’ large army of supporters.

Ngasebe spent four successful seasons with Liverpool before he retreated to his old club Life Fighters after the club regained their status in the country’s elite football league in 1994.

A bird of passage, Ngasebe jumped ship and retreated to his old club Life Fighters, where he was to establish himself as a vital cog in the Okahirona smooth-sailing engine-room, alongside the energetic Barnes Angula in 1997.

His impressive displays in the middle of the park propelled the Orwetoveni outfit to two successive NFA Cup finals, only to stumble at the last hurdle against Orlando Pirates and Chief Santos in that order.

Okahirona also came close of winning the coveted Premiership title in 1999 – but fell slightly short, having been denied by eventual champions Black Africa.

After three good seasons with his parent club, Ngasebe’s habitual wanderlust once again took hold. He developed itchy feet and later resurfaced at Nomtsoub giants Chief Santos in Tsumeb.

The much-adored playmaker engineered a pivotal role in steering the Copper Town lads to victories in the coveted NFA Cup and the coveted league title in 2003, but sadly, the lanky Congolese midfielder called it quits while still at the pinnacle of his flourishing football career and settled down in Tsumeb.

A widower, Ngasebe was married to his gorgeous girlfriend Veronica van Wyk, whom he met whilst playing for Liverpool in Okahandja. Sadly, his spouse exited the game of life (passed on) in 1997.

A father of two beautiful daughters, Ngasebe is still involved in the game that brought him fame in his adopted country and currently runs the Java Youth Football Academy in Windhoek.

History will reveal that local football authorities at some stage contemplated getting Ngasebe naturalised, so that he could be eligible for selection to the national senior football team, the Brave Warriors.

Ngasebe is amongst a significant number of Congolese footballers that left a long lasting impression down South, following in the footsteps of Zenga Dodo, Frederico ‘Chico’ Goncalves, Mundu Camana, Tony Belange, Bunene Nganduane, Emeka Mamale and Shabani Nonda, amongst other high profile footballers from that part of Africa.

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