Back in the day, the game of football was regarded as a religion in the then South West Africa (SWA) territory under the South African apartheid regime.
With Bantu-speakers (black people) restricted in many areas of social activities, apart from the weekend’s stokvels (bazaars) where schoolteachers, truck drivers, nurses, labourers and housemaids would mingle freely – a significant chunk of darkies took delight in chasing an inflated pigskin whenever the chance presented itself.
In those challenging times, football clubs were established along tribal lines and provincial affection since those who hailed from the same reserve would stay in the same section of Windhoek’s old location.
The most notable football clubs residing in the city of Windhoek then were Tigers, Thistles, Orlando Pirates, Rocco Swallows, African Stars, Pirates (Dolam) Jungle Boys, Black Africa and Explorer Eleven (Ovispoele).
However, it was not until a tallish fellow by the name Herbert Conradie arrived unannounced from the Copper Town of Tsumeb in the late 60’s to establish the star-studded Poison Cobra Football Club that things took shape.
Famously known as the man who brought former Orlando Pirates (SA) playmaker Percy ‘Chippa’ Moloi to our shores while at the helm of Etosha Lions – Conradie managed to assemble a team that left many a football admirer green with envy.
Led by the strongly-built Eliphas Sabatha, Safe Kuruseb, Martin ‘Zika’ Williams (Okambua kombadi) Doc Hardley, Dennis ‘Ou T’ Eiseb and many others – Cobras became the toast of domestic football.
As fate would dictate, the old saying that one cannot have two bulls in one kraal played its hand and the club folded after a few matches with many of the players retreating to their original clubs.
The demise of Poison Cobra FC coincided with the arrival of footballers from unfashionable Tsumeb outfit Red Bees, who descended on the capital in search of greener pastures under the shrewd stewardship of municipal busdriver Felix Kakuenje.
The year was 1968 to be precise and a new baby was born in the shape of a predominantly Ovaherero-speaking team, Flames FC.
The squad was made up of fairly average footballers, with the majority of the playing personnel recruited from a social team, called Windhoek Defenders, (Katutura Single Quarters) and African Stars’ second strings, but the team struggled to make an impact. This compelled the wide-awake Felix to act swiftly.
After a wobbling start playing in low-key knockout tourneys in small towns, such as Groot Aub, Rehoboth and Okahandja, Flames started to make serious inroads into domestic football.
Together with boyhood buddies Issy Kahungi, Darius Tjakaurua and Ringo Mbaze, Bro Felix managed to assemble a formidable squad that every football lover would be proud of.
Young attacking midfielder Oscar ‘Silver Fox’ Mengo, Ngururume Katjiku, Asser Mbai, Simon Nuujoma, Merino Kandonga, Ronny Kahuure, Willy Kariirii Katire, Soetman Kaune, Paul Kaurimuje, Urbanus Kauru Billhawer, Rikua Tjongarero, Abe Katire, Tepa Muriua, Kaumbani ‘Sholly’ Tjongarero, George Kongunja Kasuto and a couple of highly gifted youngsters were brought on board.
In the absence of organised league structures, Flames FC announced its arrival at the popular annual Ovaherero Cup, hosted by Orwetoveni (Otjiwarongo) outfit Life Fighters FC (Okahirona).
The tourney featured Red Bees (Tsumeb), African Stars (Windhoek), Black Beauty Chiefs (Okahandja), African Stars (Otavi), Sunshine (Gobabis), Flames (Windhoek), Red Fire (Walvis-Bay), Scorpions (Omaruru), Okaondeka (Okakarara), Poison Arrows (Grootfontein), and hosts Life Fighters (Otjiwarongo).
Inspired by the goal-scoring prowess of prolific striker Gotty Geiseb, on loan at the time from Okahandja outfit Spoilers – the bearded lethal goalpoacher almost single-handedly spearheaded the attack of the gold and green outfit during one of those tourneys.
Flames brushed their opponents aside to reach the final of the knockout tournament – in the process setting up a mouth-watering clash in the final against eternal rivals African Stars.
The Oscar Mengo-inspired Flames tested the endurance of the pre-tournament favourites to the limit and had the appreciative large crowd on their toes for the entire 90-minutes of an action packed final, where no quarter was asked or given.
Just as it looked that the tie would go into extra time with the minutes fast ticking by and darkness starting to set in – up popped a stocky and chirpy lad by the name of Gotty Geiseb.
The boy from the Garden Town silenced the crowd with a ferocious cracker that rattled the opponents’ net in the dying minutes of an otherwise entertaining match. Flames FC were crowned champions, at the same time earning the bragging rights of the Ovaherero people.
As this was not enough, Flames’ number one supporter, the late Nguendu ‘Maxi’ Mbaha, would coin the famous taunt: “Vlamme, Vlamme Jateja Ozondavi” (Flames broke the leaves).
Afterwards, the club embarked on an aggressive recruitment process, luring the likes of Albert Louw, Brown Amwenye, Andehe Haimbodi and Moloi Amadhila to their nest to add striking power to an already star-studded squad.
In later years, Flames were founding members of the inevitable formation of the country’s multi racial football league.
The club campaigned in the strong Central Football Association (CFA) League under the banner of the South West Africa Football Association (SWAFA) in 1977.
However, Flames FC fell foul of the country’s football authorities’ when it undertook a rebel tour to neighbouring Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) and South Africa, where they engaged in exhibition matches against local clubs in Salisbury (now Bulawayo) and teams from the rebel Federation League in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Strangely, Flames was slapped with a ban, but the players that accompanied the team on their rebel tour were free to join any team of their choice.
Sadly, the club never recovered from the setback and went the way of the dinosaur – thus closing the chapter on one of the most decorated football clubs this country has produced.
Read full story on New Era Newspaper Namibia