Tribute to unsung hero, Fiffy ‘Otjiruejo’ Hochobeb 1952–2017

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The Namibian football fraternity earlier this week awoke to the sad news of the sudden passing of former Black Africa and Dobra Football Clubs hard working midfielder Bethuel Fifi Hochobeb, better known as ‘Five’ among his circle of friends.

An uncompromising midfield general, Five was your typical modern-day midfield anchor and could also pop in with the odd goal when the situation demanded.

A one-club man, he dedicated his netire life to the black and red outfit and will go down in hisotry as a great pioneer of domestic football – having served the game in various administrative capacities since his retirement from competitive football.

In today’s edition of your favourite weekly sports feature, Tales of the Legends, New Era Sport pays tribute to this fortgotten football hero.

Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa

Windhoek-Central to the unsurpassed success of Namibia’s most successful football club Black Africa, retired versatile striker-cum-midfielder-turned-defender, Bethuel ‘Five’ Hochobeb, aka Fiffy, played a pivotal role in the fortunes of this great club both on and off the field. 

Born in Windhoek’s old location in 1952, the third of nine siblings, (7 boys and 2 girls), young Five started his schooling at Betel, St Barnabas and the Roman Catholic Mission primary schools in Windhoek’s old location. 
He found himself locked up in the remote town of Usakos in the Erongo Region where he continued with his schooling before moving to the St Joseph’s School (Döbra) northeast of Namibia’s commercial city Windhoek. 
It was here at Dobra where he would establish himself as a much sought-after athlete after he joined forces with a small hostel team going by the name of Black Magic FC.

Amongst his new teammates were Hotos Damaseb, Barry Mwefi, Pius ‘Pele’ Eigowab, also known as ‘Garrincha’ and overlapping fullback Joseph ‘Malaka’ Somseb, aka ‘Stroh’, the late Black Africa posterboy.

Five relocated to an Odendaal Farm near Khorixas with his parents where he was to begin a new life as a seven-yearold and barely out of his pair of shorts during the old location uprising in 1959.

Like many boys his age, Five started out in the school’s second-strings, where he was to rub shoulders with fellow young students such as Oscar ‘Silver Fox’ Mengo, but soon graduated to the star-studded school first team, where he formed a dangerous partnership with the equally lethal Hans brothers: Meester Willem, Johannes and Mickey.
“In all honesty, the competition for starting berths was extremly tough but make no mistake, we had a very strong squad with players like the late Ben Kauejao, Pius Eigowab, Hotos Damaseb, Steve Stephanus, Willy ‘Garrincha’ Katire, Hassie Mingeri, Vossie van Wyk, Gabes Dausab and Malaka Somseb,”  Five recalled in an earlier interview with New Era Sport.

His near-faultless performance for Döbra did certainly not go unnotice, as he caught the eye of talent scouts from Black Africa. They wasted little time in persuading the stocky striker to join their stable. 
His arrival at the Gemengde outfit sadly coincided with his expulsion from school following the schools’ unrest over vehement protestst for the abolition of the despised Bantu education system. A ringleader of the schools’ boycott, Fiffy alongside other perceived “troublemakers” were given marching orders by the education authorities in 1972.

Five made his presence felt with BA in 1974 when he teamed up with fellow Döbra students Pius Eogowab, Hassie Mingeri, Anton ‘Stouter’ Ochurub, to steer the club to the final of the historic first-ever knockout tourney with a significant cash prize of N$1,000. 

After marathon matches, the fired-up Gemengde outfit swept their opponents aside to set up a thriling final against fellow Katutura giants African Stars at the packed-to-the-rafters Katutura stadium on a chilly Sunday afternoon.
With the slippery Fiffy leading the attack, Black Africa were clear favourites to clinch top honours, but it was the Oscar Mnego’s inspired Reds that stunned the thousands of enthusiastic fans by taking a two-goal cushion going into the change – courtesy of goals from Bush Menjengua and the late Ben Kauejao’s bullet like header – beating Hubert Mootseng hands down in the oppsoition’s goal. 

Shortly after the break, Fiffy, the unsung hero of domestic football, reduced the deficit before Eigowab brought the teams on equal terms with a trademark leveller (2-2).

Just as the match was destined for extra time with the dreaded penalty shootout looming – up popped an unknown small-framed afro-haired youngster going by the name of Albert Karumbu Kahiha, a protégé of Hochobeb from Dobra. 

Karumbu unleashed a canon-like right footer from range that left the experienced Mootseng catching flies to give the resolute Starlile a shock victory in the historic match that ultimately paved the way for the unavoidable introduction of prize monies in knockout football tourneys.  

Despite the disappointment of finishing runner-up, Fiffy went onto achieve several accolades with his beloved Black Africa and was part and parcel of the all-conquering side that clinched back to back Mainstay Cup triumphs – defeating Chelsea on both occasions in 1982 and 1983. 

He was also silver medallist in the same competition when BA lost to bitter rivals Orlando Pirates via Eric Muinjo’s lone strike in the 1978 final and finished runner-up again in the 1980 edition against bitter rivals African Stars.

Nevertheless, Fiffy got some consolation when he led Black Africa to vicotry in the maiden edition of the prestigious Windhoek Lager NFA Cup at the expense of eternal rivals Orlanod Pirates during Namibia’s democracy in 1990. He hung up his togs for good afterwards.

Fiffy’s impressive resume in domestic football includes representing the strong Central Invitational Eleven against the visiting South African side Morroka Swallows, ‘The Dube Birds’, finishing on the winning side as the locals saw off their more fancied South African opponents 2-1.

He further tested international football when Black Africa toured Botswana and South Africa respectively for few exhibition matches against local clubs Township Rollers, Notwane and Paballelo Chiefs (Upington).
Five steered his beloved BA to victory in what turned out to be the unpopular DTA Cup, which the team entered with mixed feelings with defiant chairman Dan Tjongarero unwilling to be associated with the venture.

As widely expected, there was no celebration after the victory. The trophy ended up somewhere at one of the players’ lodging, as the unmoved bearded politician (Tjongarero) pointblank refused to have it displayed in the club’s richly laden trophy cabinet, anchored at Tjongarero’s residence.

A true legend in the real sense of the word, Fiffy was an invaluable founding member of the first-ever democratically elected Namibia Football Association (NFA) executive committee after the country gained long overdue recognition from the World’s football governing body FIFA in 1990.

Sadly, the likeable brother took a bow from the game of life on Sunday after complaining of severe chest pains. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

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