Just as the nation was coming to terms with the passing of a great son of the soil, retired Black Africa midfielder, Bethuel “Five” Hochobeb, another tragedy has befallen domestic football.
Former Poison Arrows FC lethal goal poacher Johannes Poriro Upingasana has gone West after a long battle with ill-health.
Back in the day, a significant chunk of great athletes would be blinded by loyalty and would not easily change clubs, a practice that somehow robbed some of them a lifetime chance to display their God-given talents on the big stage.
One such athlete was none other than the late Poison Arrows lethal net buster Poriro Upingasana. A phenomenal athlete blessed with aerial power, shooting ability with both feet and amazing speed, the beanpole skinny turned down numerous advances from top clubs such as Chief Santos, Rangers and Chelsea, while Katutura giants African Stars and Flames also tried in vain to lure the tall striker to the city of lights.
Carlos “CK” Kambaekwa
Grootfontein – Just like many other young boys growing up in the dusty streets of Grootfontein’s vastly populated township, Omulunga at the time, young Poriro was football crazy.
Young Poriro would play football on his way to the shops and during school breaks with his classmates and after school, sometimes until darkness set in.
Poriro was born in Grootfontein in 1952 and angled a significant portion of his infant years between the triangle towns of Otavi, Tsumeb and his native Grootfontein. However, it was not until he started school in his hometown Grootfontein that he got hooked to the spherical object.
“In those days, natives were made to live separately and this practice also trickled down to our social activities, whereas young kids we formed small teams along tribal lines.
“We played football every day after school against teams from the Owambo and Damara locations, but sometimes these games would turn into tribal superiority – leading to fist fights whether you won or lost,” recalled former Poison Arrows prolific goal scorer with a twinkle in his eyes.
As a youngster, Poriro teamed up with other boys from his neighbourhood such as Don Kavindjima, Curtis Tjizepa, Haukijara Ndandu, Jansen Mbekumuna, Albert Kandingua, Theo, Kalla and Festus Kuzatjike as well as the Kazanga brothers Sacky and Kadidus.
With the passing of time, Poriro was drafted into the first team of Omulunga-outfit Poison Arrows, a football team predominantly for the Herero-speaking.
The young midfield-cum-striker quickly established himself as a proven goal getter alongside seasoned campaigners Sam Tjihuno and Kaniahozu. He became the toast of the club’s diehards.
His arrival at Arrows coincided with the team’s sudden rise in popularity, as other teams in the region started to take note of the blue and white striped outfit.
“Back in the day, competition was very tough with equally good teams in Grootfontein, led by the invincible Chelsea, Dynamos, Spurs, Poison Arrows and another coloured team from Luiperdsheuwel, managed by a chap going by the name of Fikkie Bazadine.
“Chelsea used to be very strong but despite the odds stacked against us, we always competed fiercely against them. Unfortunately, we were always made to play second fiddle to them and honestly speaking, I can’t recall a day we beat Chelsea.”
Arrows also competed in several knockout cup tournaments in Otjiwarongo, Otavi and Tsumeb against the likes of African Stars (Otavi), Benfica, Santos, Rangers and Red Bees (Tsumeb), Life Fighters, Black Marroko Chiefs (BMC) and African Lions (Otjiwarongo).
“We also played regularly in the annual Herero Cup against African Stars, Flames, Scorpions, Black Beauty Chiefs (BBC) Life Fighters, Kaondeka Eleven, Sunshine and Red Bees and once won a low-profile knockout cup in Okakarara.”
In later years, Arrows spread their wings further to other towns competing in knockout cup tournaments in Walvis Bay and Windhoek, respectively – though with minimal success.
“Our favourite hunting ground used to be Rundu where we won a couple of silverware. I used to score lots of goals and this probably led to the likes of Chelsea and Chief Santos casting an eye on me. Both teams badly wanted me to join them, but I turned them down, as I could not afford to abandon my boyhood team.”
In the meantime, the trident of hometown boys, the late pair of football gurus Felix Kakuenje and Darius Tjakaurua, as well as Issy Kahungi, relocated to the city of lights (Windhoek) in search of greener pastures.
The trio established Flames FC, as the visionary newcomers sought to topple African Stars from the pedestal. They put the necessary mechanisms in place to lure the crème de la crème of South West Africa’s footballers to their stable with a football blueprint yet to be matched in modern football.
It was highly expected that young Poriro would join the newly formed Katutura glamour football club, but the lanky striker dug his heels in the sand and would not move an inch.
“I could seriously not see myself living in Windhoek and playing without my eternal striking partner Curtis Tjizepa. The two of us had a telepathic understanding on the playing field, tormenting opponents at will on any day.”
The Grootfontein-based outfit became regular campaigners in the prestigious annual Top-16 Easter knockout tournament in Tsumeb. The prestigious tournament pitted the country’s best 16 teams against each other.
“Eish, we did not win a lot of trophies during that time, but the crowds enjoyed our exciting brand of attacking football.”
Poriro took a long look at the demise of modern football, including his former team Poison Arrows. He put the blame squarely on the shoulders of retired footballers.
“You see, when age finally caught up with some of us – there was nobody ready to take over the baton from us and this has gravely contributed to the unavoidable downfall of many great football teams.
“Poison Arrows were rendered extremely weak after we stopped playing and to worsen matters, as former footballers, we somehow unintentionally distanced ourselves from football activities, thus leaving the youngsters without proper guidance.”
The beanpole goal-getter pulled no punches as he took aim at the younger generation of local footballers whom he described as big-headed and arrogant.
“Football is very poor nowadays – the boys don’t want to seek advice and are in the habit of telling us not to remind them about football in our era; dismissing it as old-fashioned.
“During our playing days, we had highly gifted footballers complemented by committed administrators like Jonathan Ndandu, who was a pillar of strength for the long-term survival of Poison Arrows. The crowds always lifted us with their undying passion for football and the players would gladly return the compliment by living up to the occasion.”
A remorseful Poriro expressed the hope that his beloved Poison Arrows will bounce back and reclaim its rightful place among the country’s top football-playing teams.
The team is currently campaigning in the lower division and Poriro alongside some of the club’s stalwarts hoped to get the team back in top-flight football within the not-too-distant future through their hands-on involvement.
Like many former local footballers, Poriro bemoaned the poor standard of modern football and believed Namibia’s independence came a bit too late for some of them.
“We were very good and had independence arrived a bit earlier, Namibia could be among the top football-playing nations on the African continent.
“All the players were equally good with every single team having at least five players in their armoury capable of representing the country at any given time.”
May his soul rest in eternal peace.