WINDHOEK – At the turn of the millennium, retired Brave Warriors wayward defensive midfielder, Razundara ‘Razzie’ Tjikuzu, seemed to have had it all enjoying an international career in football that saw him don the revered green and white strip of Bundesliga giants Werder Bremen.
But behind the flashy lights, remarkable goals he scored and thousands of fans that packed stadiums to come cheer him on, Tjikuzu was a man battling an array of off-the-field challenges that many a time comes with the pressure of being a professional athlete at that level.
Make no mistake, Tjikuzu remains one of Namibia’s most ornamented footballers of all time and equally counts among a few local footballers to have ever graced the scattered shores of European topflight football.
The 38-year old retired midfield mastermind was just a 14-year-old boy when Bremen came looking for his signature.
In 1995, Tjikuzu was officially drafted into the SV Werder Bremen Academy and it was at the club’s youth structures where he rose through the ranks over a period of four years to become one of the most promising youngsters at Bremen.
In 1998, the ebony skinned muscular Namibian was promoted to Bremen’s reserves, competing in the highly competitive German Regional-liga Nord, that country’s 3rd tier division at the time.
It did not take long for Tjikuzu to graduate to the club’s senior ranks, making his professional debut in August 1999 for the first team in the Bundesliga at the tender age of 19 – he would go on to make 25 league appearances in his debut season.
Tjikuzu made his mark in the Bundesliga and after spending eight glorious years at Werder Bremen, making 86 appearances in all competitions and would go on to ply his trade for other Bundesliga outfits Hansa Rostock, Hamburger SV and MSV Duisburg.
Between 2006 and 2010, the Namibian moved to Turkey where he joined forces with Turkish Super League side Çaykur Rizespor. He later exchanged clubs and resurfaced at Turkish sides Istanbul BB, Trabzonspor, Diyarbakırspor and Kasımpaşa S.K – which eventually marked the end of an otherwise blossoming professional career.
Despite capping off a fairly great career that earned him millions of dollars and thousands of adoring fans across the globe, Tjikuzu’s off-the-field problems kept haunting him and would soon be surrounded by hangers-on and advisers, all eager to tell him what to do with his millions.
“When I left for Germany to join Bremen, I was just 14-year-old and I left the country without my mother, who was the only person who knew me well. Just imagine a 14-year-old boy in a foreign country and could not speak a single word in German at all. It was not easy at first as I had to adapt to totally different cultures and new ways of doing things, but after four months that side, I finally mastered few phrases in German and things started to get much easier.
“After going through the team’s youth ranks, I joined the senior team and my first professional contract was worth a few millions for a 19-year-old. Eish… the pressure and the attention was not easy to contain…”
“…Maybe if I had gone with my mom, things would have been different and could have also made wise decisions.
As soon as I signed my first professional contract, the attention, women and friends became uncontrollable and soon the flashy cars became the in-thing.
I wish I had placed more emphasis on education while playing football because if you leave one of the two behind, then obviously problems will come your way. I was too focused on wanting to play football and become the best footballer I could and did not realise the importance of education.
I was not money wise and would just spent money as it came,” says the man who made more than 55 appearances for the Brave Warriors.
Tjikuzu, in an in-depth interview with New Era Sport, advised local footballers to tie their football careers with education since talent alone is not enough to guard you in other areas of your life.
He however, admits with a heavy heart that he received little guidance and only had to learn the hard way from the ‘University of life’.
“When you are young, you make all sorts of funny and illogical decisions and Iam speaking from experience because I have been there and done it all.
“That’s why I am urging our local footballers, notably those with massive contracts in South Africa and elsewhere, please be careful of bad friends and avoid flashy lifestyles as that leads to overspending and can immediately hamper your ability to save money or plan meaningfully.
“Learn how to use money wisely and understand the importance of money for retirement, because football is a very short career. Learn what is realistic and what is not when earning huge amounts of money while active.
“A downfall of footballers is a lack of financial management skills. I had to learn the hard way that’s why I am humbly advising young footballers to plan carefully and make clear-headed decisions during the early days of their careers,” he adds remorsefully.
In conclusion, Tjikuzu reveals he is busy writing an autobiography about his life and times, where he wants to share his story with all Namibians including the entire world.
More so, he wants to inspire and guide the next crop of local footballers about the various facets of being a professional player. The autobiography will be published in both English and German.