Former African Stars and Orlando Pirates football clubs’ midfield anchor, Gabriel Freyer, was arguably one of the most unheralded midfielders of his generation.
While many of his peers from the southern part of Namibia would go on to make their name at Katutura giants Orlando Pirates or to a lesser extent, Black Africa, Gabes defied tradition by joining forces with Katutura glamour football club African Stars – much to the chagrin of his admirers.
A product of the revered Tses Secondary School sandwiched between Mariental and Keetmanshoop – bro Gabes had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with some of the finest footballers during his formative years.
He hooked up with the football-crazy, highly gifted Goraseb siblings Norries, Albert and Kalistus.
It was indeed here where he would watch in absolute awe the ball wizardry of the young left- footed football wunderkind Norries.
“Without an iota of doubt, Norries was a cut above the rest – he was extremely gifted and could do a lot of things with a tennis ball glued to his tiny feet, which was the tool of the trade at the time.”
New Era Sport caught up with the well-spoken calculated academic as he relives his illustrious football journey in full detail.
Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa
Keetmanshoop-Born Gabriel Freyer on the 7th of June, 1960, on a small farm outside Karasburg, southern Namibia, Gabes attended the then Roman Catholic Primary School in Karasburg. This learning institution would be rechristened De Poris Primary School in the intervening years.
“Street football in Karasburg was serious business and if you left home on a Saturday morning it was normal to only arrive back at home by sunset, weary and hungry.
“This exercise came at a price as we were given a decent hiding before dinner was served. Nonetheless, despite regular lashings by our parents, we were uncompromising and would repeat the deed time and again, sometimes even during weekdays,” recalls Gabes. Back in the day, it was the dream of most aspiring footballers in Karasburg to ply their trade for the town’s leading team, Rambling Roses. The team would regularly compete against visiting teams from Keetmanshoop (usually Blues or Real Fighters).
“I can recall names such as Tabo, Padda, !Ub Josef Rooi and Dirk Bock who inspired many young boys during the late 60’s in the dusty streets of Karasburg.”
t was during this time that young Gabes developed a serious interest in the beautiful game. He started at a very young age not knowing that football would ultimately take him far away beyond the dusty streets of Karasburg.
As a result of the horrors of the Odendaal Commission, Gabes’ family was uprooted and forcibly relocated to Gibeon in the late 1960’s. In 1971, bro Gabes was placed at the Roman Catholic Primary School in Tses, which was part of St Therese High School. In his own words, football at the mission school was like a religion, with teams starting from A-sides at secondary school up to E-teams at primary school.
All the teams were kitted out perfectly well, thanks to donations of balls and playing gear by Holland and Germany.
On a particular weekend in 1971, Katutura giants Orlando Pirates visited the school for a couple of exhibition matches against St Therese in Tses.
This afforded bro Gabes the opportunity to test his god-given talent against strong opposition and he certainly came out unscathed, passing the test with flying colours .
Due to student turmoil during the middle 70’s, particularly in 1976, bro Gabes was obliged to juggle his studies between three different high schools before he could complete secondary school (matric).
“My time at the Gibeon state high school was a memorable one in playing for the school club going by the name of A.I. United during the 1977/8 seasons.”
The team comprised mostly of boys from Windhoek and Epukiro but soon afterwards Sorento Bucks was established, taking the competition to high levels at the school hostel.
Amongst his teammates in the school football team was astute politician and former parliamentarian Kilus Nguvauva.
“Kilus and I played in the same team and some of the blokes I can recall from this wonderful time of our high school days were Moses Tjikava Mbai, Isasskar Suva, Best Karamata, Norbert Tjozongoro, Anton ‘Chalo’ Cloete, Adam Cooper, Paul Swartbooi, Tommy Alcock, Patrick ‘Bullet’ Thomas and many others to whom I feel greatly indebted.” Back in the day, it was common practice for students to play for top clubs by invitation as guest players during the school holidays.
Young Gabes would regularly feature for clubs like Tseiblaagte outfit Try Again (Keetmanshoop) and Aimalaagte giants Black Marocco Chiefs (BMC – Mariental).
“Because of this exposure, I played my first match for Orlando Pirates A-team in June 1979 during the school holidays when the Ghosts were unable to field a full team.”
Bro Gabes and Bullet were rounded up while holidaying in the city of lights (Windhoek) by former Buccaneers’ agile shot stopper Japhet ‘Bump Jive’ Hellao to turn out for the Ghosts.
“At first I was having goosebumps because the big names in the squad were quite intimidating – I mean the likes of Tsotsi, Fly, Bigman, Vyff, Lemmy, Alu and Eric Muinjo.”
The match was at the old Katutura stadium and turned out to be quite an exciting experience but equally intimidating, a place where character and reputation of club and player could easily win a match before the game had even started.
“It was a place where spectators formed so much part of the action that after the match one could either be discarded on the spot or you became an instant hero.”
Upon completing high school at the Marianum Seminary, Gabes was awarded a study bursary and enrolled for a teaching diploma at the Khomasdal Teachers College.
It was at this reputable learning institution that his football career started to blossom after he joined Khomasdal outfit Strangers (Western Suburbs FC). During his tertiary studies he met Namibia’s football guru and astute scout, uncle Bobby Sissing.
The hippy look-alike uncle Bob made a great impression upon Gabes’ perception of politics in sport after he took the young man to represent the Namibia Central Football Association (NCFA) Invitational Eleven in the South African Soccer Federation National Inter-Provincial B-Section Zonal Tourney in Cape Town.
The newly formed league, made up of the majority of teams from Khomasdal, was a huge success, vibrant and active under the shrewd leadership of uncle Bob.
It was during his lodging in this popular football league that bro Gabes was spotted by African Stars’ mercurial midfielder Oscar ‘Silver Fox’ Mengo, and as they say, the rest is history.
“My arrival at Stars was by far the pinnacle of my entire football career because I played my best football there, as I hit the ground running alongside blokes I still endear and respect up to this day. “I would like to single out Oscar, Albert Tjihero, George Gariseb, Alu Hummel and Asser Mbai. The latter positively inspired me and shaped my outlook on life.
“Memories that stand out are our success in the coveted Mainstay Cup final against bitter rivals Blue Waters at a packed to the rafters Windhoek Stadium in 1984. Mengo’s last-gasp headed goal separated the two teams (1-0).”
Having won silverware in his debut season for the Reds, Gabes went on to enjoy high accolades and was the mainstay of the usually hard to please Stalile fans.
However, the hard-working midfielder jumped ship and rejoined boyhood team Orlando Pirates at the beginning of the 1997 football term.
“The main reason I left was that things started to change dramatically after Mengo retired from competitive football. Things were no longer the same and I could not get along very well with the new management – hence my decision to seek greener pastures elsewhere.”
Sadly, bro Gabes’ flourishing football career came to an abrupt end when he retired while still at the pinnacle.
“I started teaching but unfortunately football started to interfere negatively with my workload – obliging me to quit the game.”