WINDHOEK – From humble beginnings in Ondjambaalala village in the Ohangwena Region, to the ancient Pyramids of the sacred land of the Pharaohs via the vast Kalahari Desert in neigbouring Botswana – Benson Shilongo is certainly destined for the bigger stage.
Born Benson Jambeinge Hanghome Shilongo, the soft spoken forward rewrote history by becoming the first Namibian footballer ever to ply his trade in the highly competitive Egyptian Premier League.
The gangling striker started his football career at lower division campaigners Golden Bigs Football Club in his native town of Oshakati before joining the town’s popular team Oshakati City in the domestic Premiership.
After some impressive performances from the unfashionable northern side, the stylish striker was lured to the city of lights, after which the then Ramblers football manager and astute talent scout Mario Carreira dangled a juicy carrot in his bay face.
His next stop was Tigers where he banged in goals at will, paving the way for a professional contract across the Orange River in the lucrative South African Second tier league, National First Division (NFD).
He joined East London outfit Blackburn Rovers and though he did fairly well, homesick got the better of him and the free scoring net buster was back in familiar territory for his second spell with “Ingwe”.
Managed by local licensed player agent Escher Luanda, his next port of duty was Botswana based Premiership outfit Gaborone United. Benson rose to prominence in the land of the Zebras and became the toast of the Gaborone outfit amongst the fans.
His goal scoring prowess propelled Gabs United to victory in the Mascom Top 8 Cup, that saw him rattling the net on less than eight times to claim the coveted golden boot award of the popular knockout tournament.
Aged 26, Shilongo is one of very few celebrated footballers to have played at all national youth teams’ level before graduating to the national senior football team, the Brave Warriors. He has been capped 23 times and has amassed eight goals in the Warriors jersey.
After two and half season spell in Botswana, it was time to move on and Shilongo resurfaced at top PSL team Platinum Stars in Rustenburg.
However, despite playing a cameo role with the Rustenburg outfit, the gangling Namibian striker enjoyed a decent scoring rate but would surprisingly find himself kicking his heels in frustration with game time hard to come by.
In the meantime, the lethal goal poacher played an instrumental role in Namibia’s historic triumph in the regional COSAFA Senior Challenge in Rustenburg in 2015.
Last year, Shilongo made a breakthrough when he was snapped up by Egyptian Premiership campaigners Alassiouty Sports Club, signing a three and half year contract.
The team is based in Asyut Beni Suef, a small town, situated approximately an hour drive from the Egyptian capital Cairo. The Namibian hit the ground running, scoring on his full debut in the 1-all draw against Cairo opponents El Mokoun.
“The overall standard of football and level of professionalism in the Egyptian league is very competitive and much higher than the PSL. Egypt is a football nation and can be attested by the exploits of Mo Salah, which has inspired the nation massively.
“As a professional footballer, I was obliged to adjust to many aspects of life, more importantly cultural behaviour.
“It was a total new ball game from where I came from because athletes there are very serious and don’t engage in late night parties whilst alcohol consumption is almost taboo in Egypt.”
A return of six goals from 15 matches, rewarded with a respectable 9th place finish in the highly competitive 18 team Egyptian elite football league, has endeared the Namibian into hearts of the usually hard to please followers of the club.
“The sad part of Egyptian football is that we are playing in half empty stadiums because of a spectators ban after the tragic deaths of football fans during a league match but hopefully the ban will be lifted upon resumption of the coming term.”
The adorable forward is currently in his native Namibia, nursing a niggling adductors injury, but is confident he will be ready for pre-season training with his teammates.
“I will be jetting out to Egypt soon to be reunited with my teammates for pre-season, though I’m just a week away for a return to full training after the injury – I’m looking forward to an exciting and successful season because I want to play well, scoring lots of goals to help the team finish higher on the log table,” concluded the humorous net buster.