Elias Castanova, the tireless Angolan refugee

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Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa
Grootfontein

Born Elias Castanova on the 22nd of October, 1959, in the Angolan southern capital town of Huambo, young Elias fled his native war-torn Angola in 1976 with his elder sister and brother-in-law – only to resurface in Rundu, Kavango Region.

The football-crazy young man joined forces with the town’s leading team Cuca Tops where he made an immediate impression playing alongside club legend Paulus ‘Pau’ Kandere.

After two seasons with the club, Elias’ near faultless performance on the football pitch did not go unnoticed as he developed into a much sought-after midfielder.

He was lured to unfashionable Omulunga outfit Poison Arrows in 1978 where he played alongside the beanpole playmaker Poriro Upingasana and Curtis Tjizepa.

It was not long before the tireless Angolan was eventually snapped up by Arrows’ rivals Chelsea where he was to establish himself as a vital cog in the club’s engine room.

“Football was great in those days, there was very little money in the game but the players gave their all as almost all the teams campaigning in the topflight football league were on top of their game,” recalls Castanova.

“I was playing alongside very intelligent players in the mould of George Nawatiseb and Teacher Afrikaner. Overall, we had assembled a very balanced team, which complemented each other quite well in almost all the departments.”
Castanova played an important role in Chelsea’s upsurge as the team started to dominate football in the maize triangle to replicate in several knockout cup tournaments across the length of the country.

He was on the winning side when Chelsea reached the final of the popular annual top 16 knockout cup tournament in Tsumeb. The Omulunga outfit swept their opponents aside to reach the final against the equally dangerous Otjiwarongo outfit Black Marroko Chiefs (BMC).

Despite the hype that preceded the clash of the titans, the match turned into a shooting practice from the trigger-happy Grootfontein outfit that emerged 7-1 victors in a one-sided final.

“Eish, we were on song on that particular day, we walloped BMC to claim the trophy and from there onwards, very few teams could match us whenever we clashed as we went on to dominate domestic football for a considerable period.”
Castanova played in both ill-fated Mainstay Cup finals against Katutura giants Black Africa at the Windhoek Showgrounds and Windhoek Stadium in 1982 and 1983 respectively.
Sadly, Chelsea lost both finals against the Lucky Boostander-inspired Gemengde outfit, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of many a neutral football fan.

“To be honest, we were hard done by dubious referee decisions that went against us in both finals but nevertheless, we won a lot of friends with our exciting brand of carpet football.”

The team played under the shrewd stewardship of much-adored schoolteacher Ellis Uwanga, who took a bunch of unknown but highly gifted young footballers from scratch unbelievably turning them into world beaters.
The gold, green and red strip outfit announced its arrival in domestic football with breathtaking displays not witnessed in our neck of the woods in a long time.

Chelsea brought to an abrupt end the seemingly eternal dominance of Windhoek-based teams in domestic knockout cup competitions, making a habit of beating their more fancied opponents with large score lines, notably at the Nomstsoub gravel field in the adjacent copper town of Tsumeb during the popular annual Easter Tournament.

Castanova would play a significant role in the upsurge of his beloved Chelsea during his lodging at Chelsea, spearheading the Grootfontein outfit to reach two consecutive Mainstay Cup finals, only to be undone by highly dubious referee decisions.

Castanova ranks amongst the finest foreign footballers to have graced the shores of our Land of the Brave during the apartheid era. He still has fond memories of Chelsea’s hotly contested encounters against Black Africa.
Such was Chelsea’s popularity and dominance in domestic football that whenever major football knockout tournaments were staged without the presence of the exciting Omulunga outfit – they were considered a big flop, way short of attraction.

The tallish midfield general followed in the footsteps of Zenga Dodo (Zaire), Amerigo de Almeida, Zecca, Tony Belange, Armando Pedro, Fernando Semeo, Domingo Martin, Mundu Camana, Paolo Jamba, Papi Matengu (all Angola), Abidal Bwalya (Zambia), Frederico “Chico” Gonsalves (DRC), Elgin “Sputla” Masite, Aaron Mthebe, Raphael Ncukane, Junias Grootboom, Jabu Brown, Willem “Rebel” Plaaitjies, Willy Rwida, Raymond “Gogo” Barrera, Lionel “Boet” Mathews and Ronald Wentzel (all South
Africa).

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