Windhoek-The Namibian sport fraternity has suffered a massive blow following the sad death of the country’s renowned number-one football and rugby superfan Robbie Savage, who died aged 50.
In all honesty, Robbie, who succumbed to suspected complications from diabetes mellitus after spending weeks in a local hospital in Windhoek, died in the battlefront to protect the people’s most treasured property – football.
With the passing of Robbie, the pavilions of Namibian football and rugby stadiums will never be quite the same again. And indeed, the country’s sport fraternity has lost a loyal companion and an unwavering well-wisher.
Robbie was not only a diehard football fan, he was indeed the unofficial poster boy of Namibia’s entertainment industry, sports and music in particular. The brother would frequent almost all high-profile events, including the popular annual Windhoek jazz Festival.
The author can write a book full of tales about the life of Robbie, a character very much liked and loved by those who came to know him well.
I vividly remember June 2010, when I went to locate him at Melba’s Otjikaendu Den, a popular eatery in the Soweto section of Katutura to reveal the good news to him that a Good Samaritan by the name of Ian Kemp had purchased a return ticket for him and a guide to go and watch the FIFA World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa, all expenses paid.
It was quite chilly and it was obvious the brother first mistook the good news for a joke and further kept insisting “moet nie lieg nie” in his native Afrikaans (don’t lie).
Upon arrival at my office where the gentleman lay in waiting, Robbie burst into tears of joy and ecstasy when the gentleman confirmed the news to him, asking him politely whether he was in possession of travel documents.
Besides the return air ticket for two, Robbie’s patchy wardrobe was adjusted and off he went to the Mother City to watch the World Cup, while many of his peers had to follow the global showpiece on television.
The author got to know Robbie during his childhood days. His late uncle, Paul Willemse, aka Zorro, was a valuable member of the all-conquering South West Africa Bantu Football Eleven that toured South Africa by rail in 1968. A businessman of note, Zoro also managed the Khomasdal pop band Fifth Wheel in the 70s. One of his band members was percussionist Sebastian, whom Robbie could only refer to as “Haksteen”, as he could not pronounce Sebastian.
In fact, Robbie lived in the shadow of his celebrated late elder brother, known as Mannetjie during his younger years. The pair would often take turns to entertain the crowd at major sport and music gatherings, be it in Windhoek, Rehoboth or Walvis Bay.
When elder brother Mannetjie took a bow from the game of life – Robbie became an instant celebrity and would be ever-present at sporting and high-profile gatherings.
Robbie was the indeed first official mascot of the first-ever non-racial rugby test match between hosts NANRU and the visiting SARU at the Khomasdal field in 1987.
Just a few years back, popular Cape Town musical band The Rockets performed at the Palm Beach in Windhoek, but before launching into their first song, lead vocalist Theo Watt noticed that there was something amiss and asked loudly through the microphone: “Where is Robbie?”
I can recall the time when we traveled to Mozambique for a COSAFA match in Maputo; we left the hotel after the match to frequent the Ma Chick Chick nightclub and left Robbie behind.
After few minutes, we were summoned to the entrance door by the bouncer wondering what we have done wrong. To our surprise and amazement – there stood Robbie with the taxi driver.
Robbie had managed to wangle his way out of the hotel and told the driver that we would settle the bill. Please don’t ask me how he knew where we were. That was Robbie for you.
There was another side to Robbie – the brother was not exactly comfortable in the skies whenever he traveled with the Brave Warriors beyond Namibia’s borders. He would be so quiet that you could hear a needle drop around him whenever he was on a flight.
He was on the plane with supporters and journalists when the Brave Warriors went to Accra, Ghana for the AFCON finals in 2008. His brother in-law, Titus Kunamwene, would keep an eagle eye on him, as Robbie was advised to keep a healthy distance from the Haya Water of Moag, obviously much to his chagrin.
At times, he would go astray, because he underestimated the size of Accra, thinking Accra was like his tiny home town of Windhoek, where he could easily roam between Katutura, Khomasdal and the city.
May his soul rest in eternal peace.