Unpacking the unrevealed history of Sparta Football Club
The untouchable Sparta Football Club squad in the mid-seventies was arguably amongst the finest football entities at the dawn of the country’s inaugural multi-racial football league in 1977.
The coastal purple and white strip outfit made it their sole beat to sweep their opponents aside at will with a brand of football never witnessed in our neck of the woods before.
Laden with predominantly Portuguese-speaking athletes and a mixture of footballers of German, English and Dutch descent, Sparta were the real deal.
Like their cross-town rivals Blue Waters, Sparta benefited astronomically from European influence.
The exciting Walvis Bay outfit would occasionally engage in exhibition matches against strong foreign teams made up of sailors from Spain, Norway, Japan and Brazil, anchored at the harbour town.
In today’s edition of your weekly sports feature, Tales of the Legends, New Era Sport brings to you our esteemed readers the untold story of Sparta FC, as we unzip tales about this great football club, one of the pioneers of Namibian football.
There are very few football teams to which Namibian football is indebted and must give special thanks.
Apart from the customary big four –African Stars, Black Africa, Orlando Pirates and Tigers – one cannot turn a blind eye to the presence of seasiders Blue Waters, Namib Woestyn, Eleven Arrows and Explorer Eleven, but one team that made the doubting Thomases sit up and eat humble pie was without an iota of doubt Sparta FC.
The team always supplied the bulk of players in the then lily-white South West Africa (SWA) Invitational Eleven that competed in the highly competitive annual South African Provincial Curie Cup.
The likes of agile shot-stopper Jimmy Orchard, lethal goal poachers Ronny Dagnin and Donny Renzke, attacking midfielder Ivo de Gouveia and elder brother Carlos (winger), as well as tough tackling burly centre back Uwe ‘Etoko’ Bachmann were exceptional athletes in their own right.
Alongside Windhoek-based outfits Ramblers, Wanderers and Sport Club Windhoek (SKW), aka ‘Imawida’, Sparta dominated football in the all-white South West Africa (SWA) Football League, comprising of teams from Otjiwarongo, Swakopmund, Tsumeb/Kombat, Otavi, Okahandja Manschaft and other teams from Windhoek such as Talpark and DTS, back in the day.
Four Sparta players were selected for the white eleven against their black counterparts in the first ever multi-racial football match on local soil at the packed to rafters South West Rugby Stadium in 1975.
The quartet were Ivo de Gouveia, Jimmy Orchard, Ronny Dagnin and Carlos de Gouveia, all in the starting line-up in the exhibition match that ended in a three-all stalemate after the whites were awarded a highly disputed thrice-taken spot kick in the dying minutes of an otherwise entertaining clash of the titans.
Sparta FC went on to dominate the league and attracted some of the finest footballers from neighbouring South Africa – enticing them with lucrative job offers in the flourishing fishing industry.
Sparta were amongst the very first sports entities to defy orders from the authorities by including players of colour in their playing squads – very much to the amazement of the Advocate Louis Pienaar administration under the South African Apartheid regime. The likes of Arthur de Bruyn, Bobby Kurtz, Collin Lackey and Allan Dickson were all roped in to strengthen the playing personnel.
When Katutura glamour football club African Stars arrived in Walvis Bay for exhibition matches against hosts Atlantis and Sparta in 1976, many predicted the Oscar Mengo-inspired Reds to be in for a rude awakening after the coastal side had accounted for cross-town rivals Blue Waters the previous week.
Sparta took a two-goal cushion going into the second half at the packed to rafters Sparta field in Walvis Bay but the visitors had different ideas at the restart.
With bulky winger Doc Naobeb moving into first gear skinning his marker at will down the right wing and his opposite number Immannuel ‘Marques’ Kamuserandu also in an uncompromising mood on the day, Stars turned the tables in the second half.
Spearheaded by the free scoring Ace Tjirera, Ben Kauejao, Mengo and Kaputji Kuhanga, ably assisted by the solid defensive display from twin centre backs Willy Rwida and Albert Tjihero, as well as the agility of reliable shot-stopper Ndjiva Kauami, the Reds rattled the hosts to emerge 5-3 victors.
Nevertheless, Sparta remained a major force to be reckoned with in the domestic topflight football league.
Versatile midfielder Ivo de Gouveia went on to captain the star-studded SWA Currie Cup side on numerous occasions and is regarded as amongst the finest all-time footballers Namibia has ever produced. Apart from dominating football in the fiercely contested Western Football League, Sparta also won several cup competitions and were amongst the most decorated football clubs in history.
Sadly, the coastal giants folded after the majority of squad members that included defender and team captain Uwe Bachman, Ronny Dagnin and Jimmy Orchard left the country for greener pastures in neighbouring South Africa.
The trio’s departure weakened the squad gravely – prompting the likes of Ivo, Donny Renzke, Cruyff Kudulu and Sandro de Gouevia to jump ship only to resurface at cross-town rivals Blue Waters, where they were to be reunited with Bachman as head coach.