RIP – Elifas Heita, “the Bullterrier” 1979 – 2018
The Namibian football fraternity has been dealt another major blow following the tragic passing of retired Black Africa Football Club hard galloping box-to-box midfield kingpin Elifas Heita.
The pocket midfield anchorman was killed in a horrific road accident when the vehicle he was driving overturned and rolled – leaving him unconscious – only to perish hours later to his wounds at the Ongwediva Medi-Park Hospital in the Oshana Region.
Heita was returning from the wedding ceremony of local socialite Gordon Pokolo, where he was best man.
His death follows short on the heels of another high profile footballer Tugela Tuyeni, who excited the game of life in a similar fashion more than a year ago while on festive holiday in the northern part of the country. Namibia has in the past lost dozens of promising and retired footballers in catastrophic road accidents.
These were; Patrick Jaegger, Leo Koutondokwa, Britho Shipanga, Ben Kauejao, Doc Hardley, Ringo Skrywer, Crooks Casper, Malaka Somseb, Steven Leicher, Jessie Diergaardt, Kaboy Shovaleka, Pele Damaseb, Anderson Armstrong, Bernard Dicothle, Pablo Wermann, Laza Auchumeb, Donbaldt Shipanga, Moses Moss, Geoffrey Zaahl, Tiwi Kaundje, Richard Ventura and many others.
In today’s edition of your favourite weekly sport feature, Tales of the Legends, New Era Sports, dedicates a full page as we relive the life journey of one of Namibia’s unheralded football heroes Elifas Heita.
Carlos “CK” Kambaekwa
WINDHOEK – A product of the notorious Katutura Township, where only the toughest survive, young Elifas started playing football at an early age during his formative years at both Mandume and Jan Jonker Primary schools.
And like many other young aspiring footballers who started their football careers in the lower ranks – Elifas began playing competitive football with unfashionable Donkerhoek outfit Golden Rivers before moving to Black Africa.
The stocky midfielder would go onto establish himself as a vital cog in the Gemengde outfit’s engine room alongside Marko van Wyk and Rudi Louw.
Well known local football guru Mario Carreira, a great admirer of the departed midfielder could not hide his sadness and describes Elifas as a phenomenal athlete who could have easily gone onto play football anywhere in one of Europe’s top football leagues.
The astute football administrator says he desperately tried on many occasions to sign the midfield workaholic for his now defunct team African Latinos Football Club when he was still playing for Rivers in the lower division in 1993 but being a loyal servant, he would not budge.
“I have always followed his progress and rated the boy highly. Elifas had all the required attributes of a complete footballer blessed with a lion’s heart, I am actually surprised or rather disappointed he has never manage to establish himself as regular in the Brave Warriors set up – given his exceptional talent.
“In my humble opinion, the boy should have been capped at least fourty (40) to fifty 50 times at senior level. He was your typical Roy Keane type of midfielder, extremely competitive, committed and above all, a tireless warrior on and off the field of play.
“A mentally strong athlete, Elifas possessed a phenomenal fighting desire complimented by a big engine for his small frame, no wonder BA started their marathon dominance in domestic football just when he joined them from Golden Rivers.
“The late Elifas was such an influential figure who hated losing and his characteristics are there for everybody to notice as clearly demonstrated by his astonishing academic achievements while playing football at the highest level,” concludes Carreira with a trembling voice while tears of agony rolls down his cheeks.
Meanwhile, Black Africa Sports Club front man Cassius Moetie also weighed in with condolences paying tribute to a loyal servant of the club.
“I got to know Elifas as a humble, submissive and very simple footballer of BA way back when the club was known as the Cup Kings. Elifas had various coaches who have all played for BA before and I am speaking from a position of authority since Kandas Paulino and I are probably the longest serving executive members BA ever had,” reveals the clearly emotional Moetie.
The football crazy official adds that from all the players, the deceased played with during those times, he stood out – leaving a lasting impression on his legacy.
Like any player, the often-confrontational midfielder was subjected to tough selection choices by coaches at BA since it was no mean feat to play for the Lively Lions. “You needed hair on your teeth to make the first 18”.
The immaculately dressed Moetie states that as football administrator, he realised and come to terms that coaches have flaws and theirs are absolutely normal, because they are human like athletes.
More often than not, coaches are not always sincere towards selecting the best team from the pool of players at their disposal for a particular match. Elifas experienced the same until he stood his ground – expressing his concern as assertive as he was with a particular coach BA had at the time.
The animosity between him and his coach worsened until Elifas resolved to escalate the matter to the Executive, requesting for an audience.
Club chairman Boni was obliged to facilitate a Disciplinary Committee under his stewardship, Moetie, Agnes Tjongarero (before she became MP) and the late Broertjie Swartz.
“The panel objectively listened to both sides of the complainant (Elifas and the coach). We eventually resolved the said coach has already benched Elifas for few games without following a fair process in dealing with discipline.
“The DC was unanimous in overturning the “punishment” which rendered the player redundant as he was banned from training – thus making him ineligible for selection. The coach was ordered to reinstate the player with immediate effect.
When he returned to camp, Elifas exhibited great attribute of obedience and humility as a grounded and collected young man. He would before training commenced, requests a few minutes from the coach to engage his fellow players about the incident between him and the coach and how it all unfolded.
“I am deeply saddened by what happened and regret that relations between my coach and I deteriorated to the extend that my absence from the team affected all of you whom I have played with for long.
“This matter between the coach and I is now water under the bridge and we are now starting on a clean slate. I am back and I commit, as usual, to give 200 percent to you, my fellow players, to you coach and to our trusted BA supporters.
“I subject myself fully to the instructions of the coach during training and on-field during official matches every time I am selected,” Elifas apologised remorsefully.
“I saw nothing else but leadership in Elifas, a personality who was more than capable to skipper BA; someone who could easily mature in an executive function of the club; someone if given the opportunity, could become a great Chairman for BA. These were the character traits I saw in the brother,” Moetie stresses.
The stocky midfielder has won the NFA Cup multiple times, more than any other NPL club in history and also laid his hands on the coveted Premiership title and the FNB Season Pipe Opening Tourney.
Having won almost everything there was to be won in domestic football, Elifas called it quits while still at the pinnacle of his flourishing football career. He leaves behind his gorgeous spouse Maria Dina Heita, who bore him two children, a boy and girl.
Although he has retired from the game, Elifas was a regular at BA matches sheering his beloved team from the stands.
The much-adored midfielder will be laid to rest at Ouhongo village in the Ohangwena Region tomorrow morning. A memorial service will be held at Meme Hilma Ndeshipanda Haludilu’s homestead at Ouhongo, this faternoon, few kilometers outside Engela in Ohangwena. May his soul rest in eternal peace.