Retired Chelsea Football Club midfield general George Nawatiseb was born in Grootfontein’s largest residential area, Omulunga, on the 7th of December, 1960.
When he was about 16 years old and hardly out of his pair of shorts, the light-skinned soft-spoken Georgy, as he was affectionately known amongst his boyhood buddies, joined local team Hunters Football Club.
Up to this day, football followers would never talk about George, but ask any footballer of note who had come face to face at some point in their football careers with George about Chelsea, and the first name mentioned is George Nawatiseb.
The author had the distinct honour of playing quite a few times against the cool as a cucumber midfielder in many of our hotly contested encounters.
I can vividly recall that whenever Hungry Lions played Chelsea – the game plan was always to close down George, not allowing him the slightest space to supply his trademark killer passes to the dangerous quartet of the Francis brothers Richo and Tiger and the Damaseb cousins Orlando and Pieces.
Quiet and calculated, George’s cool style of play was reminiscent of that of Kaizer Chiefs legend, the late Patrick ‘Ace’ Ntsoelengoe.
After years of tracking down the Chelsea playmaker, New Era Sport finally caught up with the main catalyst behind Chelsea’s success as he relives his story and the reason why he once abandoned ship to join forces with Tsumeb outfit Benfica.
Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa
Windhoek-The all-conquering Grootfontein outfit Chelsea Football Club of the early eighties was generally regarded by many as the most entertaining football team from that era.
The squad was well balanced and blessed with highly gifted footballers, and though their lethal strike force was the catalyst of the team’s march to greatness – it was indeed in the engine room where supplies to the forwards were engineered with the precision of a crafted butcher.
The boys from the dusty Omulunga Township instilled fear in their opponents but it was in the middle of the park where a fairly unknown light-skinned midfielder dictated the pattern of the game.
The Chelsea No. 8, George Nawatiseb, a well-built stocky midfielder, was your modern box-to-box midfield general.
In hindsight, bro George would appear harmless and honest as a judge, somebody who could hardly harm a fly but his masterfully executed killer passes and vision were something out of the ordinary and had opposing defenders living in great fear with the prospect of coming face to face with the deadly ‘Silent Assassin’.
An excellent reader of the game, the cool as a cucumber midfield kingpin possessed all the required attributes of a complete athlete and was a real gentleman on and off the field of play as well.
What he lacked in speed was made up with excellent positional play covering the most crucial areas on the field.
History reveals that the likes of Oscar Mengo, Doc Hardley, Koko Muatunga, Salathiel ‘Webster’ Shafombabi, Ritchie ‘Skii’ Steenkamp, Packs Ushona, John Kake, Axab Gowaseb, Ben Gonteb, Absalom Khomob, Ambrossius Vyff and Richard Wahl were without an iota of doubt the finest midfielders of their generation.
However, upon closer inspection, the mere mentioning of George Nawatiseb paints a different picture. The much-adored Chelsea No. 8 was the kind of opponent many hated to confront, as he would always outmanoeuvre them in many aspects of the game.
Blessed with a brilliant first touch and unbelievable ball retention, George was an intelligent athlete who could easily spot the slightest of marginal gaps in the defence, which others could not see.
His ancestral genes dictated he would be a noted athlete – after all his celebrated cousins spearheaded by charismatic Wilfred ‘Mini’ Nawatiseb (Welwitschias High School and Eleven Arrows), Steps Nickel, Robert ‘Mahlangu’ Nawatiseb (all Chief Santos), Nangi ‘Watch’ Nickel (Etosha Lions and Eleven Arrows) were all formidable footballers in their own right with their respective teams.
George started out as a left flanker for Omulunga outfit Hunters FC and was only converted to a midfielder by unheralded football guru, respected schoolteacher Ellis Uwanga.
Truth be told, the latter transformed Chelsea from an unknown entity of raw but highly gifted young footballers to giant killers as the team became the toast of local footballer followers.
History reveals that the then accepted eternal dominance of Central teams was halted by the emergence of Chelsea. The team’s arrival on the football scene coincided with the introduction of multi-racial football in South West Africa (SWA) in 1977.
George formed the spine of the exciting Grootfontein outfit alongside the hard-galloping midfield partners Angolan refugee Elias Castanova and Laurentius Afrikaner. Chelsea established themselves as feared and tricky customers to deal with in domestic football, leaving their enemies green with envy with their exciting carpet football that captured the imagination of football lovers across the length and breadth of the country.
Unfortunately George could not break into the star-studded South West Africa (SWA) Provincial Currie Cup side as he was competing for a spot against already established midfielders Oscar Mengo, Brian Greaves, Doc Hardley, Ambrosius Vyff and Ivo de Gouveia,
When the Omulunga side trotted on to the Windhoek Showgrounds turf to confront Katutura giants Black Africa in the final of the Mainstay Cup in 1982 – it was a Dawid vs Goliath affair as he matched BA’s mercurial midfielder Lucky Boostander pound for pound in very aspect of the game.
Statistics reveal that the Gemengde outfit emerged as winners of the hotly contested final, but the result left a sting in the tail after match referee Arnulf Schmidt (Smitty) awarded the outplayed Gemengde outfit a highly dubious penalty to give the Windhoek outfit victory on a silver platter.
The two teams met again the following year at the Windhoek Stadium with the Dawid ‘Big Fellah’ Snewe’s inspired Black Africa coming out tops again.
Despite the setback, George went on to enjoy unsurpassed success on the football field with his beloved Chelsea, winning several knockout tournaments in Tsumeb, Khorixas, Otjiwarongo and Outjo, amongst others.
“We had a great team with very committed athletes, but what made our task much easier was the discipline amongst the playing personnel. Our coach and team manager, Ellis, was an uncompromising strict disciplinarian who put lots of emphasis on fitness,” reveals George.
George sent shockwaves amongst the Chelsea faithful when he jumped ship to join Nomtsoub side (Tsumeb) Benfica in the mid 80’s.
“When teacher Ellis was transferred to Windhoek, the club was left in total disarray with no proper leadership in place. There was inevitably animosity between the players after the coaching staff started to unjustifiably afford certain players preferential treatment at the expense of others.”
However, it was not long before the prodigal son retreated to his former club (Chelsea) after a brief spell with the blue and white strip Nomtsoub outfit. George served Chelsea with distinction until his retirement from the game.
Although he will go down in history as the most underrated midfielder of his generation, George made his mark and left a long-lasting legacy in domestic football.