Remembering a forgotten football icon: Hans Dibasen Zebo Engelbrecht, aka Dios (1949-1992)

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The history of domestic football would be incomplete without mentioning the no nonsense former Orlando Pirates Football Club fullback-cum-mentor turned astute football administrator, one Dios Engelbrecht.

A product of Windhoek’s Old Location, Dios was a member of the exciting maroon and white strip Katutura outfit Rocco Swallows, an entity primarily under the wing of three different clans, the Garisebs, Jaggers and Engelbrechts.

His brother ‘Electric Power’, cousins Maxueb and Hendrik also turned out for the club, which had a heavy representation from the Gariseb and Jaggers clan on the team’s playing personnel.

However, Dios would eventually defy family tradition and switch over to eternal rivals Orlando Pirates – much to the chagrin of family members.

In today’s edition of your favourite weekly sport feature, profiling the untold tales of athletes, past and present New Era Sport brings to you, our esteemed reader, the untold story of Zebo ‘Dios’ Engelbrecht.

Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa
Windhoek

Back in the day there was an unfashionable football outfit by the name of Jungle Boys, wearing gold and blue colours, but one particular squad member stood head and shoulders above the rest and other teams were circling like vultures to lay their hands on the left-footed dribbling wizard Petrus //Nerab Gariseb, aka //Noas.

In those days, no matter whatever juicy carrot would be dangled in their faces, footballers were very loyal to their respective teams and would not easily change allegiance. However, Rocco Swallows (maroon and white strip) would sacrifice their traditional name in order to entice the skillful winger to their nest.

The inevitable amalgamation of Rocco Swallows and Jungle Boys Football Clubs led to the formation of Ramblers Katutura, to be christened “Ram Kat” in later years when football in then apartheid South West Africa (SWA) became multi-racial in 1977.

The name Ram Kat was in fact imposed on the club by the predominantly white CFA bosses, as the name clashed with that of cross-town rivals Ramblers. This was the second time that a black club was ordered to change its name or outfit because of a clash between different teams.

Ramblers after Tigers were ordered by authorities to change their blue and white colours as it clashed with that of Ramblers, despite the two clubs competing in quite different setups.

Tigers FC were also told in no uncertain terms to alter its name, as “Tigers” was apparently reminiscent of a violent animal.

Although the majority of Swallows players joined forces with the newly formed gold and maroon strip Ramblers side, one player went in the opposite direction, finding refuge with Swallows’ bitter rivals Orlando Pirates.

That man was none other than Hans Dibasen Engelbrecht, better known as ‘Zebo’ amongst his circles of friends. In later years, the brother was to be rechristened Dios.

A no-nonsense fullback, his arrival at the star-studded Ghosts outfit coincided with the squad’s transformation at a time when a number of squad members were retiring from the game for various reasons.

Zebo, as Dios was affectionately known amongst his football buddies, was drafted in to replace the ageing John Awarab, aka ‘Jackal Trap’ and Mathews ‘Growes’ Namaseb at left back.  Dios’ style of play certainly did not inspire the neutral football fan, but his uncompromising marking of opponents and timely tackles made him a feared defender.

He easily slotted in and managed to establish himself as a vital cog in the Ghosts defense alongside the robust Izaak ‘Whoops’ Gariseb, Mathews Namaseb, John Awarab and Augustinus ‘Dokes’ Hange and Thomas Losper in the Buccaneers’ rearguard. Dios was not only feared for his bone-crunching tackles, he would be best remembered as a mean puncher with a dangerous right hook whenever tempers flared up.

He once shattered the jaw of a schoolboy, the volatile former African Stars fullback, Metusal ‘Babes’ Kangombe (Kaveumbua) with a vicious right hook during a friendly match between Orlando Pirates and Augustineum High School at the school’s football field.

In another incident, Dios floored Nau-Aib outfit Spoilers Football Club defender, the late Emile Tsubatego //Garoeb, with a powerful right hook that would have left the great Leon Spinks green with envy during a knockout tourney in Okahandja – sending the bearded defender to slumber land. His stunned victim would not return to the field as he was left stumbling around like a headless chicken.

On another occasion, a stubborn Nama boy from Mariental also had a taste of Dios’ quickfire knuckles when he was knocked unconsciously via a vicious right hook – never to return to the field of play for the rest of the match, as he was unable to remain on his feet.

Persistent knee injuries would, however, cut short his football career, obliging him to turn his attention to football administration and coaching. He immediately showed his hand at coaching, leading the Ghosts to victory in the second edition of the now-defunct annual Mainstay Cup against old foes Black Africa in 1978. Dios transformed Pirates into an attractive football brand by strengthening the squad with a number of young footballers that included dribbling wizard Norries  Goraseb, Che Ndjuela, Tsotsie Afrikaner, Ou Rudge Noariseb and experienced playmaker Doc Hardley.

Under his shrewd stewardship, the Ghosts reached their second successive final in the Mainstay Cup the following season and looked poised to successfully defend the trophy when an unpopular boardroom (green table) decision robbed the club of a well deserved victory.

The Theo ‘Momina’ Gurirab-inspired Ghosts defeated cross-town rivals SKW by 5 goals to 3 in an eight-goal thriller that ended after extra time at the Windhoek Stadium in 1979. The two teams were tied at three all (3-3) after regulation time.

However, the country’s football governing body, SWAFA resolved to punish Pirates in the most unpopular and inhuman fashion by awarding victory to their beaten opponents, because Pirates mysteriously arrived 45-minutes late for the kick-off. In the interim, Dios became an executive member of the strong Central Football Association (CFA) and would move up the ranks, serving on the SWAFA executive in various positions under the tutorship of unheralded football guru, the late Chris Nel. He was at the helm when a weakened South West Africa (SWA) Invitational Eleven won the biannual South African Provincial Impala Cup for the second time in 1985. The SWA amateurs effortlessly saw off Transkei by 3 goals to 1 in a lowkey final at the half-packed Katutura stadium in 1985.

The hastily assembled squad was comprised of relatively young and inexperienced footballers from Sorento Bucks, Hungry Lions, Young Ones, SKW, Ramblers and Chief Santos in the absence of players from the country’s leading football clubs.

The players were deemed ineligible for selection after their respective teams severed ties with SWAFA to form the breakaway popular football league, the Namibia Soccer Super League (NSSL) in 1985.

Under Dios’ mentorship, Pirates won a significant number of trophies, including the Novel Ford Cup. A man of many talents, Dios was amongst the leading football referees shortly after Namibia’s democracy in 1990.

Off the field, Bro Dios was an elegant dresser, living the motto of his employer, local outfitters Otto Mohr, where he slaved as a salesman during his formative years before taking up employment with NHE until his untimely passing in 1992.

Sadly, his life was cut short by stab wounds he sustained during a mysterious fracas – although regrettably the motive behind and details of his killing remain sketchy. May his soul rest in eternal peace

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