Former Ramblers skillful attacking midfielder, Alan Gonsalves, was for a considerable period the most popular footballer in the less glamorous Amateur Soccer Association (ASA) – successor to the defunct highly competitive Central Football Association (CFA) in the then South West Africa (SWA), back in the day.
At the very moment he arrived in Windhoek, South West Africa in 1985, the bulky midfielder made an immediate impression with near faultless performances alongside highly rated Canadian import Kim Blank, Bertus Damon and John Gant.
However, the silky playmaker was made to wait a bit longer before he could be drafted into the Rammies star-studded starting eleven as the team was fighting on two fronts in a crowded calendar, the same year Rammies won the coveted Mainstay Cup – dispatching Chief Santos 4-0 in the final at the old Katutura stadium.
Nonetheless, Alan went on to to establish himself as the most adorable midfielder in the business and was deservedly given the captain’s armband after a season and a half with the Tunschell Street Boys.
New Era Sport managed to track down the likeable baby face midfielder at his home in Midrand, Johannesburg as he relives his football journey that took him across the border to Salisbury (Bulawayo) in the then Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) during the height of apartheid in 1977 before landing in SWA, seven years later.
Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa
Born Alan Gonsalves in the vastly populated middle-class suburb of Florida, Johannesburg, South Africa on the 17th of December 1961, Alan was like many other boys his age, football crazy.
The big-framed dribbling wizard started his football career with a small amateur team from the neighbourhood going by the name of Durban Deep FC but later joined Florid Albion FC in the South African Professional Football League.
He also played cricket though the beautiful game of football always enjoyed preference. Aged 16, he was selected for the South African Junior Football team that toured Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1977.
Two well-known teammates on the tour were the lethal striking pair of former Kaizer Chiefs goal poachers Shane McGregor and Glen Jordan.
“We assembled a very good side and played a few exhibition matches against invitational sides at the Barbour field in Salisbury,” reveals Alan.
He also represented the strong South African Defence Force (SADF) football team in the annual South African Provincial Currie Cup between 1981 and 1982. It was compulsory to be drafted into the SADF and the brother had to weather the storm very much against his beliefs and principles.
In the meantime, he would turn out for the army football team just to while away time doing what he did best, playing football whenever time permitted.
As fate would dictate, Alan arrived in South West Africa (SWA) Namibia in June 1985. A proud and typical English-speaking fellow – Alan was obliged to join forces with the exciting Pionierpsark outfit Ramblers Football Club.
His arrival in the then South West Africa coincided with the formation of the rebel league, the Namibia Super Soccer League (NSSL) – a move that left the traditionally highly competitive Central Football Association League (CFA) gravely lean in terms of quality.
When the bulk of the leading black football clubs broke away to join the rebel NSSL, it was back to square one for domestic football exactly seven years after the introduction of multi-racial football in 1977.
Despite the setback, the remaining predominantly white teams led by Ramblers, SKW, Maritimo (formerly Sparta) Atlantis, Talpark, Tsumeb/Kombat, Swakopmund Fussball Klub and DTS resolved to form their own league – leading to the inevitable birth of the Amateur Soccer Association (ASA).
For obvious reasons, ASA would become the only recognized football league in the country under the banner of the mother body, the South West Africa Football Association (SWAFA).
As a result, footballers from the breakaway football league were deemed ineligible for selection to the provincial (SWA) football team campaigning in the much sought-after annual South Africa Provincial Currie Cup tournament.
When selectors chose the team to represent SWA at the South African Provincial Currie Cup in 1988 – Alan Gonsalves’ name was amongst the first on the team list.
Alan was a valuable squad member of the clearly weakened SWA football team and played in two successive Currie Cup tournaments in Durban and East London in 1988 and 1989 respectively.
What he lacked in speed and endurance, the tricky midfield general made up in amazing ball skills complemented by a phenomenal first touch accompanied by technique and ball distribution second to none.
In the interim, the much-adored attacking midfielder skippered Ramblers with a certain measure of distinction – leading the Tunschell Street Boys to victory in one of the oldest cup competitions in the country, the coveted annual Horst Pitch Pokal (Cup).
Rammies came up against bitter rivals ‘Imawida’ (SKW) and had the better of their eternal enemies – defeating their much-fancied opponents in the dreaded penalty shootout in the final at the latter’s stadium in 1989.
And to crown an excellent display, Alan netted a cracker from a free kick against SKW’s highly rated Danish shot-stopper Karl T’Jonk, who was stationed in Imawida’s goal.
The year 1990 will certainly go down in history as Alan’s most cherished moment in football. The visionary midfielder almost single-handedly propelled Ramblers to the country’s elite football league after marathon promotional playoffs in Swakopmund.
His traditional defence-splitting telling passes to the three-pronged striking partnership of Juku Tjazuko, Jorge da Purificacao and Joseph Martin saw Ramblers deservedly reclaim its rightful place amongst the country’s elite football clubs.
Alan was subsequently rewarded with the captain’s armband to lead an invitational local side against the visiting Angolan invitational team at Windhoek stadium, which formed part of Namibia’s democracy celebrations in 1990.
The exhibition match ended goalless but Alan had done enough to earn the admiration of the usually hard to please local football followers.
In football corridors, Alan Gonsalves was and is still regarded as the most skillful white footballer to have ever graced the well-grassed fields of domestic football.
He is talked about and rightly so, in the same breath as iconic former Windhoek City and Ramblers Football clubs’ ball wizard, Bob Koudelka, and former Sparta playmaker Carlos de Gouveia.
Sadly, a career-ending knee injury hastened his premature retirement from the game while still at the pinnacle of his football career towards the end of 1990.