13 July 2012

Namibia: Inside the Aged - Ectos - Mr Football in His Time

When the late football guru Herbert Conradie arrived in Johannesburg with the South West Africa Non-European Football Association team, consisting of a bunch of amateur footballers for their participation in the biennual South African Provincial Impala Cup in 1974 - the side was generally regarded as the best team South West Africa (Namibia) had ever sent across the Orange River.

Several unknown young and highly-talented footballers made their provincial debut in that particular tournament and certainly left a long-lasting legacy on the football field, as the amateurs defied all odds stacked against them to win the prestigious tourney hands down.

One athlete who made his mark in that particular tourney was former Rangers and Poison Cobra FC sharp shooter, Ectos Kandundu. The strongly-built soft-spoken winger proved a menace to many opposing defenders, while his laid-back approach defiantly put his markers at ease - only to pounce on them like a venomous Cobra.

WINDHOEK - Born in Tsumeb on the 12th of July 1952, young Ectos began his football career at the Mariabron Catholic Mission Primary School, nestled between his hometown Tsumeb and Grootfontein.

Despite his considerable bulk and being an all-rounder in sports, Ectos was a champion in both the 100 and 200-metre sprints during the popular Inter- Schools Athletics meetings, but his first love was always going to be the beautiful game.

He teamed up with other talented peers such as the legendary Pius "Pele" Eigowab, Benzil Khotiseb and his late cousin Gabes Dausab and would play football whenever the opportunity arose. "You see in those days - as young aspiring footballers we did not give a damn about positions and just wanted to play football be it at fullback, striker or in goals as long as one could get some game-time on the pitch that was okay," reveals Ectos with evident nostalgia.

As with many pupils from Mariabron - Ectos found himself furthering his education at the unofficial school of excellence, the St Josephs Secondary School (Döbra). It was at Döbra where he was reunited with some of his former buddies from Mariabron, including Eigowab.

Ectos joined a team on at the school going by the name of Kid Marong in the unofficial school league where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of former Atlanta Chiefs danger man Kaningandu Masilo, Steve Stephanus, Kariirii Katire, Scala Shaanika, Barry Stephanus, Linus Garoeb and the terrible Hans brothers Willem, Johannes and Mike.

It was not long before he carved himself a place in the starting lineup of the star-studded Döbra senior team. Ectos immediately established himself as an electrifying old-fashion right winger who mesmerized opposing defenders with his canon like shots that left many shot stoppers with fractured fingers.

The Tsumeb-born lad had this uncanny style of always hiding behind the crowd on the side lines - only for Linus Garoeb on the opposite flank to switch play by delivering an innocent looking diagonal pass into the open space for the invincible Ectos to pick up the pieces and inflict damage to the unsuspecting opposition.

Back home in Tsumeb, Ectos teamed up with his school buddy Linus and cousin Gabes and as they say the rest is history. The three Döbra protégés mesmerized defenders in the red and black colours of Rangers Football Club, one of the most exciting football outfits to have graced the pitch in domestic football during the height of apartheid.

After three years playing for Rangers, Ectos relocated to Windhoek at the invitation of the late football guru Herbert Conradie who went on an aggressive recruitment spree in a bid to get all the best footballers join the newly established Katutura outfit Poison Cobra Football Club.

Ectos and other top footballers from Grootfontein and Windhoek joined the exciting Katutura-based side and the red and green outfit became the toast of every local football follower as they boasted all the best footballers in the business at the time.

The likes of Eliphas Sabatta, Doc Hardley, Safe Kuruseb, Gerson van der Byl, Martin "Zika" Williams and many other highly talented players were just some of the big names in Herbert Conradie's newly assembled squad. The ambitious club toured Kimberley, South Africa and excelled in exhibition matches that saw team mate Sabatta being snapped up by Kimberley's Dalton Brothers FC to become one of the first footballers from South West Africa to sign a professional contract in the early seventies.

When the national selectors assembled a team to participate in the prestigious South African Provincial Impala Cup in 1974 - it was inevitable that the majority of the squad members would come from Poison Cobra. The overpowering presence of the Cobra quartet of Ectos, Eliphas Sabatta, Safe Kuruseb and Doc Hardley could only be matched by the inclusion of Orlando Pirates stalwarts led by skipper Steve "Kalamazoo" Stephanus, Willem Eichab, Ambrossius Vyff and Japhet Hellao.

History would reveal that 'the Class of 74" was the first ever football team representing the South West Africa which went under the yoke of apartheid to win silverware in a high profile Provincial Tournament in neigbouring South Africa.

"That team was absolutely phenomenal and the fact that we did not even properly train together before we departed for Johannesburg tells the whole story. There were so many talented and great athletes in that squad to the extent that almost all the players in the traveling entourage were equally good, so to speak," recalls the 60-year old Ectos fondly.

"Truth be told, if we had the calibre of players we had in that team now - our football could have been on par with all the top football playing nations on the African continent. In those days, footballers were more committed, because we always put national pride ahead of everything else including money.

"We slept and ate football and we spent our own hard-earned cash to buy playing gear, togs and shin guards while we were also made to cough up for transport, accommodation and meals," recalls Ectos.

"It was certainly not a walk in the park against the silky South Africans in the Impala Cup, they were very skillful and were technically more advanced but we outsmarted them with our simple one-touch football.

"Besides that, we had equally great footballers in our squad who could match the South Africans pound for pound and guys like Albert Louw, Oscar Mengo, Doc Hardley and Storm Khom-Khaiseb were great ball distributors in their own right.

Combine that with the safe hands of Japhet Hellao and steady defending of Ranga Lucas, Steve Stephanus, Malaka Somseb and you have a complete team."

Ectos backs up his assessment of the team by adding that a good number of the members of the squad from "the Class of 74" were eventually signed up by top clubs in the South African Professional Soccer League when the tournament was over.

The likes of Steve Stephanus, Oscar Mengo, Pius Eigowab, Doc Hardley and Malaka Somseb all made their way to South Africa, while others such as Ranga and Storm turned down offers. "I personally feel that the current crop of football bosses are in error by their reluctance to co-opt some of the players from that team into coaching youth teams, because they still have a lot to offer in terms of expertise."

As fate would have it, Ectos' promising football career was brought to an abrupt halt through a career-ending knee and ankle injury while still at the pinnacle of his career at 28.

He holds the late Albert Louw, Oscar Mengo and Pius Eigowab in high esteem and says he still cherishes the countless derbies against Katutura glamour football club Africa Stars at the old Katutura Stadium. He also enjoyed playing against Khomasdal outfit Thistles. "Thistles were a very good team with excellent clever ball players such as Kiro Makati and many others."

Now a farmer and building contractor, Ectos is still cherishing ambitions of getting involved in football and plans to establish a youth academy in his adopted hometown of Rehoboth.

"I'm busy negotiating with Attie Erasmus, a former footballer himself to get the idea off the ground because football is in my blood."

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