History shows that Otjiwarongo outfit Life Fighters Football Club – affectionately styled ‘Okahirona’ by its ardent followers – has never laid their hands on the popular annual Hosea Kutako Knockout Cup.
Despite being accorded the distinct honour to host this particular tourney in their own backyard, Otjiwarongo, the purple and white strip outfit always fell short of emerging triumphant in the prestigious tourney, where provincial bragging rights were always at stake.
The Orwetoveni-based club was established in 1964, exactly 12 years after the birth of what would become their eternal rivals, the Katutura glamour football club African Stars.
Needless to note, the rivalry between these two clubs still holds the arguable belief that any football match pitting these football giants against each other is automatically the biggest derby in domestic football.
New Era Sport caught up with one of Fighters’ founder members, Jayz Mbakera, by far the club’s most recognisable figure over the years.
The likeable and soft spoken retired flying winger reflected on his memorable lodging with the institution that has since become part and parcel of the life and culture of every proud resident in the predominantly Ovaherero community section, Orwetoveni.
Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa
Otjiwarongo-MTC Premiership returnees Life Fighters Football Club was established in 1964 by aspiring young footballers living in Otjiwarongo’s old location for natives.
Born in Ongombe Ondjeo near the Okozongominja farm in the Otjozondjupa region, Bro Jayz Mbakera was amongst a group of enthusiastic young footballers eager to call into life a formidable football unit that would challenge and bring to an end the serial dominance of the untouchable Black Marrokko Chiefs (BMC).
The raw village boy wasted little time and immediately knuckled down as he teamed up with streetwise boys in the neigbourhood, chasing an inflated piece of leather to while away time in the absence of other recreational facilities.
“I vividly remember our long road journey from the village to Otjiwarongo, with my entire family. We traveled in a crooked fourteen-wheel ox wagon careered by huge oxen. It took us a couple of days to reach our intended destination,” recalls bro Jayz.
“Upon arrival in Otjiwarongo, the family found refuge in the town’s old location for native Bantus (blacks). I started school and it was during my schooldays that I started to develop a serious interest in playing football.”
Apart from competing in the hotly contested stake games in the dusty streets of Orwetoveni, some of the boys would occasionally turn out for the second strings of local outfit Hungry Lions Football Club.
In fact, there were two prominent teams in the Ovaherero quarters: Hungry Lions and United Football Club. However, a significant chunk of squad members from Hungry Lions decided to form their won team, leading to the establishment of Life Fighters Football Club in 1964.
The boys from the Lions of the North put their shoulders to the wheel alongside other young boys from United FC to form Life Fighters – and as they say, the rest is history.
“At first, there was hostility towards us from the older guys who did not take kindly to us forming our own team, since our departure somehow weakened their respective squads. So, we were made to keep our tails firmly between our legs.”
In no time, the purple and white strip outfit started to make unwanted serious encroachments into competitive football. They competed fiercely against local clubs while also featuring in knockout cup tourneys in Otavi, Outjo, Grootfontein and Tsumeb.
Interestingly, Life Fighters soon became a major force to be reckoned with, especially in the vast Maize Triangle (Otavi, Tsumeb and Grootfontein).
Some of the finest up and coming footballers on offer in the Ovaherero-speaking community in Orwetoveni location were roped in to pilot the new kid on the block, which was soon rated amongst the country’s leading football clubs.
Nonetheless, it was not until the misplaced politically motivated introduction of the all-inclusive Ovaherero Chief Hosea Katjikururume Kutako’s annual floating trophy that saw Okahirona announce its arrival on the football scene with a splendid performance in the prestigious football tourney, which they hosted.
Sadly, the tourney was unintentionally tailored to advance tribalism and division amongst indigenous Namibians, since requirement for entrance was strictly reserved for the Ovaherero-speaking football clubs – much to the delight of the masters of apartheid.
“We played well, but for some strange reason would always get stuck whenever we played Katutura-based African Stars, as they always dispatched us by a solitary goal in all our meetings.
“Our team never won that tournament, but we would take solace that our netball side and the football second team would always win their respective section,” he recalls.
By his own admission, Life Fighters always struggled on the road and were once given a thorough hiding (5-0) by coastal giants Eleven Arrows in a knockout cup tournament at the old Katutura Stadium in Windhoek.
“The match was played in the morning hours with spectators still flocking to the field. We lost 5-0 and were so ashamed that when we saw our supporters entering the field wanting to know what the result was. We were so embarrassed that we resolved to feed them with lies that the match has been rescheduled for midday, as we made our way out of the field.”
Despite the mishap, Okahirona managed to regroup by reaching the final of a knockout cup tourney organised by flamboyant Katutura outfit Flames Football Club at the Augustineum Sportsground in Windhoek.
Okahirona claimed the scalps of Blue Waters, Orlando Pirates and robust coastal outfit Red Fire en route to the final to set up a date with tournament hosts Flames.
Sadly, the final could not take place that day, as in the absence of floodlights at the stadium darkness soon set in – thus leaving the tie to be rescheduled for another date.
‘To our surprise and dismay, we received a letter by fax from the tournament’s organisers on Friday that the match had been rescheduled for the Saturday, a day after receiving the notice.
“It was completely impossible for us to undertake the trip down to Windhoek after such a short notification. In what we considered as daylight robbery, Flames took points because of our no-show, as our protest about the timeframe fell on deaf ears.
“The majority of our playing personnel were employed in retail outlets where they were required to report for duty on Saturdays, unless prior arrangements are made well in advance. Look, in those days, blacks could not just roam around freely, we were obliged by law to apply for traveling permits whenever we wanted to enter the city of lights.”
In the interim, Jayz would team up with boyhood teammate and cousin Pottie Mbarandongo to form a musical band, which they christened Ink Five. The band was the pride of the Ovaherero-speaking community in the town and would attract large crowds to their gigs wherever they performed.
In later years, the pop band underwent a name change to ‘Dallas and Sisters’ after it had recruited two female vocalists of Tswana descent to their already juicy lineup.
Multi talented bassist Jayz would also shift behind the microphone to sink his teeth into the lyrics of cover versions, ranging from the Beatles to other great rock bands including the Rolling Stones, Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO), Deep Purple, Slade, Credence Clear Water Revival and many other memorable artists.