When the exciting Walvis-Bay based Sparta Football Club, arrived in high spirits at their packed to rafters pocket-size field to entertain the visiting African Stars in 1977 – the Portuguese outfit has in its armoury a strongly built gangling striker, going by the name of Ronnie Dagnin, spearheading their firing line.
Billed as a precursor ahead of the unavoidable kick off of multi-racial football in the then Apartheid South West Africa (SWA) – the match certainly lived up to its top billing.
Hosts, Sparta had been on a rollercoaster having seen off cross-town neigbours Blue Waters in a historic exhibition match with racial pride heavily at stake.
The purple and white strip outfit appeared on course to claim the scalps of another giant, taking a two-goal (2-0) cushion going into the half time break, with the beanpole Dagnin causing all sorts of aerial trouble for the visitors’ rear guard.
However, the Doc Naobeb inspired Reds turned on the tables with a splendid second half display to dispatch their hosts 5-3 in an eight goal-thriller in astonishing fashion – much to the delight of the appreciative large crowd gathered in the harbour town.
New Era Sports caught up with the humorous lethal goal poacher as he relives his remarkable football journey in his adopted Land of the Brave.
Carlos “CK” Kambaekwa
WINDHOEK – Without a shadow of doubt, retired Sparta Football Club beanpole lethal net buster Ronnie Dagnin of English descent, was the most lethal striker of his generation during the formative years on multi-racial football in SWA under the South African Apartheid regime.
Popular wisdom amongst the football crazy fans had it that Sparta was the most exciting football team in the business.
Born in the mother city, Cape Town in 1947, the tallish striker started his football career with amateur club Marits Brothers Football Club in his native Cape Town and by the age of 15, he was already playing first team football.
Amongst his most famous teammate were; Fushis Taylor, who went onto to play professional football for Cape Town City. The latter also represented South Africa internationally before the country was banned from global participation because of apartheid.
“I came to South West Africa (SWA-Namibia) after completing high school for my compulsory army training at the Walvis Bay Battalion in 1970,” reveals Ronnie.
In his own words, the adorable gangling Englishman played a few games as a guest player for the Portuguese side. He impressed the team management whilst his teammates took a liking to his amazing goal scoring prowess.
“At the time, Sparta were competing in the national second division but the club had a great bunch of fantastic footballers, spearheaded by the trident of the skillful De Gouveia brothers Ivo, Emideo and Carlos.”
Upon completion of his compulsory army intake, Ronnie retreated to Cape Town but it was not long before the Portuguese club came calling for his signature.
Ronnie returned to the harbour town and as they say, the rest is history. “When I came back to Walvis Bay, the club had by the time gained promotion to the highly competitive national first division for whites only.
“I was persuaded by the Reigard brothers, Chris and Piet to relocate to Walvis Bay as they sought to strengthen the squad ahead of their debut season in the national first division.
He was to play a pivotal role in steering the Portuguese outfit to victories in several knockout tournaments including the popular Georges Cup, Swakopmund Cup, Coastal Trophy and many other tourneys across the country.
When national selectors scrambled around to select a team for the historic exhibition match between the SWA Whites and their Black counterparts in 1976 – Ronnie name was amongst the first on the team sheet.
The whites won the clash 2-1 after the big frame Vic Lovell brilliantly gathered Oscar Mengo’s weakly taken spot kick.
He was also rewarded for his near faultless display in the national division one football league, when he was invited as guest player for the historic international friendly against the visiting football team from West Germany Paderbon SC.
As it turned out, the giant forward obliged in the most dignified fashion returning the compliment by registering his name on the score sheet in the 2-all draw against the visiting “Jerries”.
And even though he failed to register his name on the scoreboard, Ronnie was amongst the most outstanding performers when Sparta demolished the visiting Stellenbosch University (“Stellies) by three unanswered goals (3-0) at the Sparta field in Walvis Bay.
Ronnie also featured for the semiprofessional Windhoek City side in the historical mid-week international friendly against the visiting Cape Town outfit Hellenic, shortly after Namibia attained her democracy from Apartheid South Africa, in 1990. However, the lethal goal scorer arrived late for the kick off as he was traveling by road from Walvis Bay.
A second half substitute, Ronnie scored a cracking long-range goal from almost the halfway line. Disappointingly, the “wonder goal” was controversially ruled out for an infringement.
Nonetheless, the match ended in a 2-all stalemate after the high-flying visitors squandered a 2-goal lead going into the half time break.
History reveals that Sparta was the first local side to bring an abrupt end to the Don Corbett’s inspired Ramblers’ dominance in the division-one domestic league while it was also the first club in the Apartheid SWA to open its doors for darkish skin members.
The Portuguese club reinforced its playing personnel by bringing on board Doc Hardley (O Pirates – SA) and Pius Eigowab (A Wanderers – SA) while Alan Dickson, Arthur de Bruyn, Collin Lakey, Bobby Kurtz and Cruyff Kudulu were recruited from local clubs.
Ronnie was the main target man for the multi-racial SWA side during the prestigious South African Provincial annual Curie Cup in Johannesburg in 1979, alongside teammates Donny Renzke and agile shot stopper Jimmy Orchard.
When the newly formed Soweto giants Kaizer Eleven touched down at the Jan Smuts Airport (Hosea Kutako International Airport) for exhibition matches against local invitational teams at the old Katutura stadium, Ronnie and his Sparta teammate Carlos de Gouveia were in the starting line-up for the SWA Invitational Eleven.
Many will remember his deadly telepathic combination with striking partners former Scottish youth international John Hazel and fast as lightning tricky winger Carlos de Gouveia.
Sadly, circumstances beyond his control obliged the Sparta forward to hastily pack his bags retreating to his native SA only to resurface in the city of gold and bright lights, Johannesburg.
“What actually transpired is there were a lot of squabbles about Walvis Bay not regarded as part and parcel of an Independent Namibia with word doing the rounds one had to forfeit your citizenship and all that sorts of jazz. I was left with no other option but to return to SA”.
Upon arrival in Jozi, Ronnie joined a local amateur football club competing in the social league. He played until the advanced age of 40. Nevertheless, the retired giant goal poacher still holds great memories of his football journey in SWA.
“Football was always great and became more competitive after the inevitable amalgamation of multi-racial football in the late seventies. I always enjoyed playing against Blue Waters since they had great athletes.
“Their wing player Immanuel (Kamuserandi) was always a thorn in the flesh for many defenders. That bloke was very fast and could shoot with both feet at full speed from very awkward angles.”
“Football was really great and extremely competitive in those days, but I must admit I still cherishes the costal derby against Atlantis.
“The whole of Walvis Bay would come to a virtual standstill the entire week prior to the match and though we always came out tops, some of the blokes left the pitch with bruised bodies…laughs.”
Pressed to name his toughest opponent, he paused for a while and mumbled he does not want to single out players, as there were hopelessly too many good defenders around.
However, he could not resist the temptation of singling out Ramblers hard man Bobby Craddock and Siggy Hacker (SKW) as very tricky customers to deal with.