A significant number of highly gifted athletes are wandering in the doldrums because of their doings. Many footballers never lived to realize their dreams or better still, managed to unleash their full potential as a result of making wrong choices.
One such athlete is retired Tigers FC versatile midfielder-cum-defender Peter “Oubaas” Mokwena, aka “Siwelewele”.
Fittingly nicknamed after the Setswana hit song, Siwelewele was destined for the bigger stage when he started playing competitive football with the now defunct Easter Jumpers in 1990 in the highly competitive Central second tier division, aged 17.
Siwelewele rose to prominence when he joined old-time campaigners Tigers FC in the country’s flagship football league as an exciting box-to-box attacking midfielder with the revamped “Ingwe Inyama” in 1995.
In today’s edition of your weekly sports feature, Tales of the Legends, New Era Sport goes toe to toe with the lanky defender as he relates tales about his thorny football journey, which was partly disrupted by off-the-field shenanigans.
Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekwa
WINDHOEK – Born Peter Mokwena in Namibia’s capital city Windhoek on 30 January 1973, the big-frame footballer also went by the name “Boere”, a reference to white man because of his light skin.
Born and bred in the notorious Gemengde location in Namibia’s largest residential area Katutura – a stronghold of Black Africa Football Club – one would have expected the gangling defender to end up playing for the Lively Lions.
Nonetheless, Oubaas defied tradition when he resurfaced at rival club Tigers – much to the chagrin of the football-crazy close-knit Gemengde community.
He started playing football at a very young age as a learner at the revered A.I. Steenkamp Primary School in Katutura. Some of his decorated teammates were Lolo Goraseb, Ruka Isaacks (elder son of the legendary Lemmy Nairb), Mabos Ortmann, Romus Bock and Riaan Fredericks.
Despite his talent and amazing football prowess, the lanky midfielder never received a call-up to the national youth teams.
Never mind the disappointment of being overlooked for national team selection, Siwelewele continued unhindered with his business of playing well for Eastern Jumpers.
He was to play an instrumental role when Jumpers reached the play-offs for promotion to the country’s elite football league against last placed Orlando Pirates.
Unfortunately, Jumpers failed to negotiate their way past the resolute old timers but Oubaas had certainly done enough to impress the talent scouts.
“My preferred choice was Orlando Pirates but when I went to their training ground I found them running around the field like marathoners. It put me completely off because that was not my cup of tea, neither my mug of coffee.”
In the interim, the notorious “Rooi Oog” gang was harassing people and threatened Siwelewele with serious bodily harm if he did not join forces with Tigers.
“I had no other choice but to join Tigers because those guys were extremely dangerous and could have made my life miserable,” recalls Siwelewele in a trembling voice.
“They dragged me to Striker Mokgone’s home and instructed the poor bloke to issue my clearance without further delay, which he eventually did under duress.”
He made his debut for Ingwe in a mini tournament organized by Ramblers at the latter’s field but ended on the losing side when Tigers failed to convert any of their allocated five spot kicks in the penalty shootout against African Stars in the final.
The calculated midfield kingpin fitted like a hand in glove in the four-man Tigers midfield alongside the skillful Alele Kapule, hard-running Congolese import Makalele Ndoumbasi and the deadly left-footed Page Ananias.
In his debut season, Siwelewele won the NFA Cup with Ingwe – dispatching Black Africa in the final and went on to claim a double the following season.
He was to play a pivotal role in steering the rejuvenated Ingwe, retaining the much sought after NFA Cup before adding the Metropolitan Cup against African Stars and Liverpool, in that order.
To put the cherry on the cake, Siwelewele netted the winning goal in the 2-1 win over Stars in the final of the NFA Cup at Windhoek’s Independence Stadium.
His near faultless display did not go unnoticed as the beanpole midfielder-cum-defender received a call-up to the national senior football team, the Brave Warriors, under the stewardship of German mentor Peter Uberjhan.
He came on as a late substitute against Botswana – replacing man of the match and fellow debutant Congo “Jakkals” Hindjou in the Warriors 6-1 thrashing of the out of sorts “Zebras” at Windhoek’s Independence Stadium.
Siwelewele went on to make more appearances for the national team but was dropped from the squad when Namibia qualified for their first AFCON finals in Burkina Faso in 1998.
“I was naïve and somehow irresponsible – that cost me dearly. Up to this day I regret my wayward behaviour as I ultimately lost out on a lifetime opportunity when Screamer Tshabalala came to my mother’s home to sign me for Chiefs.
“Sadly, he found me dizzy-eyed in my drunken stupor (tswaka) and lost interest. The envisaged deal went up in smoke because from what I was told by Slice (Ouseb), Chiefs identified me as the ideal replacement for the ageing Neil Tovey.”
The football playing centre back was recalled to the Warriors set-up, touring Germany for a number of training matches against local clubs. “We played a few matches against lower division teams and did fairly well in our last match against Borrussia Dortmund reserves – losing 3-4.”
His excellent performance earned him an invitation from German football expert Joe Fraken to try his luck abroad. The latter took Siwelewele under his wing at amateur German club Schmidt FS. He returned home after three months to rejoin Tigers.
However, Siwelewele sent shockwaves amongst Ingwe diehards when he jumped ship to join forces with exciting Khomasdal outfit Young Ones in 2000 after new owner Harald von Lüttichau dangled a juicy carrot in his baby face.
“We finished runner-up in the league that season but I just felt indebted to Tigers and decided to rejoin the club that paved the way for me to play competitive football at the highest level.”
The multi-talented versatile free-scoring midfielder was later converted to centre back alongside Bricks Hangula, succeeding the ageing Mentos Hipondoka.
Siwelewele went on to win two NFA Cup finals at the expense of Chief Santos in 1997 and 1999 respectively. He was also in the starting line-up when Ingwe narrowly lost to Civics in the final of the NFA Cup in 2003.
He also represented Tigers in the CAF Cup Winners Cup against Lesotho’s Roma Rowas – coming out tops after a 2-1 stalemate in both legs. Tigers emerged 4-1 winners in the dreaded penalty shootout as Dax Andjmaba saved four spot kicks in the decisive second leg in Maseru.
However, Siwelewele was on the receiving end when Tigers got thoroughly beaten by Congolese outfit Zodigraf 10-0 on aggregate before losing on the away goal aggregate against Swaziland’s Eleven Men in Flight on another occasion in continental football.
Sadly, his flourishing football career was brought to an abrupt end in 2003 as a result of niggling knee injuries that required two operations.
Unlike many former footballers who turned their back on the beautiful game upon retirement, Siwelewele joined Tigers’ technical team in the capacity of assistant coach. He was Brian Isaacs’ understudy when the invincible Ingwe claimed the coveted MTC Premiership title in the 2014/2015 term.
Siwelewele is the incumbent Tigers second-in-charge and harbours ideals of becoming the head coach in the not too distant future, should the opportunity arise.
“I’m passionate about football and would like to remain involved in the game for many more years to come. It’s just a pity that the game has gone gravely backwards because of the conspicuous absence of competitive football at school level, while the non-existence of a properly structured reserve league is seriously hampering development to the detriment of the national team.”
Siwelewele is in absolute awe of former Orlando Pirates lethal striker Ewaldt Hoeseb, whom he claims to have been his most dangerous opponent during his playing days. He is also a great admirer of former Eleven Arrows and Black Africa midfield general Bobby Samaria.
“Football was very competitive during my playing days. I still and will always cherish our countless battles against Black Africa and Blue Waters. The Birds were always a hard nut to crack, notably at their happy hunting ground, the Kuisebmond Stadium.”