The Namibian football fraternity has for the umpteenth time awoken to sad news with the untimely passing of former Chelsea Football Club defender Albertus Elvis Tsandib.
The strongly built and tallish centre back has taken a bow from the game of life after a vicious heart attack at his hometown Grootfontein last week.
A product of the muddy Omulunga Township, Grootfontein’s largest residential area, Elvis was a founder member of the all-conquering Chelsea line-up under the shrewd stewardship of highly respected local schoolteacher Ellis Uwanga.
The latter took a bunch of unknown but highly gifted young footballers and from scratch unbelievably turned them into world-beaters. The gold, green and red strip outfit announced its arrival in domestic football with breathtaking displays not witnessed in our neck of the woods in a long time.
Chelsea brought to an abrupt end the seemingly eternal dominance of Windhoek-based teams in domestic knockout cup competitions, making a habit of beating their more fancied opponents with large score lines, notably at the Nomstsoub gravel field in neighbouring Tsumeb during the popular annual Easter Tournament.
The late Elvis played a significant part in the unbelievable upsurge of his beloved Chelsea in the early 80s that saw the Grootfontein outfit reach two consecutive Mainstay Cup finals, only to be hard done by highly dubious referee decisions.
In today’s edition of your favourite weekly sports feature, Tales of the Legends, New Era Sport profiles the football journey of one of the unheralded defenders of his era, as the football community mourns and at the same time celebrates the untimely departure of Elvis Tsandib.
Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa
Windhoek-History will reveal – and rightly so – that the dominant view amongst football fans back in the day was that one has to be blessed with a decent shot in your legs to make the grade at exciting Omulunga outfit Chelsea Football Club.
Chelsea’s amazing style of play resembled that of Barcelona in the modern game. The exciting Grootfontein outfit used to put more emphasis on their particular game plan, accompanied by a tactical approach of keeping ball possession and shooting from range.
Blessed with a vicious strike force in the shape of deadly sharpshooters in its armoury, led by the highly gifted quartet of the lethal Damaseb cousins Orlando and Pieces and the equally dangerous Francis siblings Richo and Tiger, Chelsea sent shivers running rout in the bellies of well established shot-stoppers, who despised the very idea of going to head to head with the muscular boys from the Maize Triangle.
A cool as a cucumber defender, Elvis got a taste of competitive football in 1976 when he featured in a knockout cup tournament in Arandis in the orange and green colours of Chief Santos.
Interestingly, the cool and calm defender ended on the winning side, as Santos claimed the silverware in the then emerging and much adored mining town.
That same year, the late Theodore Spiegel formed a team by the name Spurs Football Club, and Elvis was amongst some of the youngsters roped into the newly established side.
A year later, his next stop was the newly formed Chelsea Football Club. The club just had undergone a rebranding exercise – changing its original name, Angry Lions, to Chelsea Football Club.
His near-faultless defensive display at the heart of Chelsea’s rearguard week in and week out endeared him to hearts of even neutral football fans, whilst it also drew admiration from the opposition.
Unlike many defenders who would resort to ruthless rugby tackles, Elvis was your typical Des Walker (the former England great) centre back: very composed, calculated and always consistent with his tackles, winning tough battles cleanly. And, oh boy, the departed brother possessed that rare ability to launch attacks from the back.
For a defender, Elvis was blessed with a brilliant first touch and also packed a decent shot from range. A great header of the ball, the ebony-skinned Grootfontein-born lad would occasionally register his name on the score sheet from set pieces.
Such was Chelsea’s popularity and dominance in domestic football that whenever major football knockout tournaments were staged without the presence of the exciting Omulunga outfit – they were considered a big flop and lacking attraction.
As fate would dictate, Elvis suffered what would turn out to be a serious career ending knee injury in a match against coastal giants Blue Waters at the Windhoek Stadium in 1980.
As a result, Bro Elvis missed out when Chelsea were deliberately denied a well deserved victory in two consecutive finals in the now defunct Mainstay Cup in both 1981 and 1982. Both finals were played in Windhoek against Katutura giants Black Africa.
A significant chunk of the team’s playing personnel never fully recovered from the setback and consequent disappointment – feeling they were deliberately robbed. With the majority of the team’s golden generation hanging up their togs – it was time to pass the torch to a new generation.
The team recruited several highly gifted young footballers led by Steven Damaseb, Elias Castanova, Boeta Mungunda, Puli Subeb, Hafeni ‘Teenage’ Mwashekele, Maxi Newman, Stakes Naobeb, Lamola Gomusab, Dokkies Nariseb, Bule Damaseb, Gottfried //Oati, Willem Tsandib, James Shipunda, Nicky Eiman, Kanu Muchali, Tuso Horaseb and many other youngsters.
Though the new recruits were blessed with immense talent, the youngsters could simply not replicate the flair and pedigree of the club’s Pieces Damaseb-inspired golden generation.
The team’s uncharacteristic poor performance on the field started to show as their form deteriorate rapidly, to the extent it culminated in their subsequent relegation to the country’s lower tier leagues.
Word has it that plans are under way to resurrect the club’s ailing fortunes as former players seek to inject new life into what was once the sacred jewel of Namibian football.