The Namibian sports fraternity, football and boxing in particular, awoke to sad news about the passing of the ever present sports enthusiast, Edy Natangwe Willibard, better known as ‘Man of Action’ in social circles.
A colourful immaculate dresser, Bro Edy was the biological father of the now defunct popular female Afro/pop band Gal Level.
A true son of the soil and a jolly good fellow, whom many came to know through his involvement in sport, Bro Edy exited the game of life after a long battle with ill health, in Windhoek last Saturday.
Kefas Shipi Elago
Ongwediva -Born in Etunda village near Okahao, many came to know him as a man who loved and lived sport, a retired boxing coach and a man who played a pivotal role in the overall development of boxing, football, donkey and bicycle racing in his native Okahao.
His arrival in Okahao shortly after Namibia’s independence in 1990 doubtlessly resurrected sport, notably football after he founded the black and white strip outfit California football club.
The newly formed club brought an abrupt end to the serial dominance of Tsandi and Outapi-based teams in the popular domestic knockout cup competitions, that made a habit of beating their more fancied opponents with enormous score lines.
Man of Action took a bunch of unknown but highly gifted youthful footballers from humble beginnings, miraculously turning them into a formidable squad that went on to terrorize established entities with their tick-tack style never witnessed before in that neck of the woods.
The unavoidable birth of California FC eventually found its rightful place in the history books of Okaho as the black and white strip outfit started to take football by storm.
The team’s magnificent display lured many spectators to the gravel sports field opposite the graveyard in Okahao.
In 1998, Man of Action led his invincible side to cup glory, keeping a clean sheet throughout the ODC tourney to become the first team to clinch the trophy without conceding a single goal in the history of Omusati football.
“The club went on to establish themselves as the King of Knockout Cup competitions in the area for an indefinite period,” narrated California’s prolific retired striker Alexander Manguuo, aka Dr Manguuo.
In 1999, the playing personnel underwent a facelift after some irregularities were picked up.
The club was found guilty of hosting a fictitious tourney after a suspicious organizer used the team’s name without authorization from club management to host the tourney.
To worsen matters, the man vanished from the scene, disappearing into thin air in the middle of the tourney – thus leaving the winning team without the promised prize, much to the chagrin of the club’s followers.
Even though some claimed it was a deliberate plot to eliminate the team from the football scene – only history will tell what actually transpired.
Ultimately the ban signalled the end of the reign of California football club, obliging a significant chunk of its senior players to seek greener pastures elsewhere.
And while some players found refuge with Ongwediva outfit Golden Bigs FC because of their close ties with Man of Action, other disjointed squad members resolved to hang up their togs for good.
Unsurprisingly, the team tried to bounce back in the 2000’s with a complete new squad competing in sporadic domestic knockout cups.
However, the mission proved impossible and even though the new recruits were blessed with immense talent, the youngsters could simply not replicate the flair and pedigree of the club it was once renowned for.
The team’s uncharacteristic poor showing on the field of play started to show with their form deteriorating rapidly to the extent that it culminated in an all-time low that led to the team embarking on the unavoidable path of the dinosaur – never to emerge again.
However, this did not stop the energetic Man of Action from doing what he loved most – and cycling was next on his sporting agenda.
Bro Edy established a cycling club in Okahao that went on to unearth dozens of competitive athletes in the shape of cyclists. He will be best remembered for one notable cycling competition, a marathon 100km road race.
The race started from Ondangwa and wound its way through Oshakati en route to its final destination in Okahao, attracting a large crowd.
The raced coincided with the first of its kind donkey race launched on the day, even though the contest was different from what was expected as the usually obedient domestic animals (donkeys) had a different interpretation of the rules governing organized racing.
The unsuspecting poor animals point-blankly refused to play along when the gun went off to signal the start – instead of galloping towards the finishing line, the clearly confused donkeys scattered in all directions, leaving their amused jockeys with the task of trying to navigate them towards the intended destination.
However, the donkeys would not cooperate, obliging the red-faced race organizers and confused marshals to call it a day – much to the amusement of onlookers.
The late Man of Action was a core founder of the Omusati Football League in the mid-90’s and was also the founding chairman of that league, it becoming a cornerstone for many teams.
His undying love for sport was like manna from heaven to most schools in the Okahao surroundings. The habitually generous Bro Edy would always come to their rescue sponsoring sports gear branded with the California Young Generation logo.
This exercise oiled the football machines, subsequently sparking a generational revolution in the peoples’ much loved game.
Paulus ‘Kandeya’ Shingenge described the late bro Edy as a man of great principles, a person with rare characteristics whose ultimate wish was to educate people and promote sports in his community without fear or favour.
“He was like a father figure to many of us – I remember when we did not play well he would usually jam us into his van to go and watch big football teams play in Oshakati for us to gain more experience. Whenever the team was a goal down at halftime, bro Edy would tell us ‘ladies first’ and we all knew we just needed to go back fighting tooth and nail to manufacture the desired result.”
“He used all available resources at his disposal to accommodate team members and feed the players, and was indeed a man of the people. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” said an emotional club stalwart Shingenge.
Kankondi ‘Omufudise’ Sakaria narrated how Man of Action wanted them to play entertaining football with tactical discipline. “His undying love for the team was phenomenal as he always called us eenkoshi (lions) when on the field of play.”
“He was quite fun to be around with, and knew exactly how to get the best out of players. Bro Eddy was also my boxing mentor during my younger days at Etalaleko SSS.”
“I would say he was like a second father to me – Man of Action, your legacy lives on, rest in peace,” added Sakaria, another veteran from California FC.
Bro Edy’s eternal boyhood buddy from Windhoek’s old location, legendary boxer Joseph Shikongo, aka ‘Joe Archer’, Namibia’s first ever professional boxer, described his trusted companion as amongst very few blokes who were instrumental in introducing boxing to the northern part of the country.
“He (Eddie) devoted his entire life to sports development – without an iota of doubt his absence will be solely missed.”
Sadly, bro Joe could not dwell much on his buddy’s tales as he was emotionally deeply taken during a brief call from New Era Sport, while travelling to Windhoek to join mourners and to render his unconditional support to the bereaved family. In 1974, Man of Action alongside his buddy, Joe Archer, were part of the crowd that witnessed the historical ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ featuring the great Mohammed Ali and fellow American opponent George Foreman. His presence at the bout staged in Kinshasa, Zaire, was testimony to what the man was all about – let alone his undying passion for sport.
Early this year, a contingent of retired footballers teamed up to organize a well attended football tourney during the Easter long weekend in honour of Man of Action in a humanitarian gesture of raising funds aimed at resurrecting football in Okahao,
Sadly, little did his protégés know that would be the last time he would be around them.
On a lighter note, Bro Edy never failed to remind those who cared to listen that he enjoyed a close relationship with two prominent members of the Namibian society in the shape of the Founding Father of the Nation, Dr Sam Nujoma, and much-adored self-made northern business mogul, Dr Frans Indongo.
Man of Action died in Windhoek on the 9th of this month aged 73. The memorial service will be held tomorrow, Saturday, at the Macedonia Church opposite Dr Ihuhua consulting rooms at 14h00. Bro Edy will be laid to rest at Windhoek’s old location cemetery on Sunday.
Proceedings for the burial will be conducted from Erf 5592, Titus Namyeya Street, Donkerhoek (Katutura). May his soul rest in eternal peace in one piece.