1 February 2013

Namibia: Inside the Aged - the Lion-Hearted Midfield Maestro

A horrific car accident approximately 20 kilometres north of Mariental, on a midweek late afternoon in 1996, abruptly ended the flourishing football career of one of the most accomplished central midfielders Namibia has ever produced.

Local football followers felt greatly hard done by when news came through that current mentor of reigning Namibian champions Black Africa Football Club, Brian Isaacs, was involved in a terrible career-ending motor accident while still at the pinnacle of his blossoming football career.

The former Black Africa midfield kingpin started his somewhat abbreviated football career as an apprentice with exciting Khomasdal side Civics Football Club before cutting his teeth in the country's topflight league with the untouchable Gemengde-based outfit.

Signed from Civics at a very tender age as a stop-gap midfielder to replace the injured Lucky Boostander - 'Oubaas", as Brian was affectionately known among his peers, made his debut for Black Africa in the semifinals of the JPS Cup against Sorento Bucks in the tough and demanding rigours of topflight football - and never looked back.

Despite his deceiving fragile looking frame, Brian's uncommon simple style of one touch football, complemented by amazing passing ability and great vision, certainly brought a new dimension to Black Africa's overall play. The slippery midfielder became an instant hit with the club's usually hard-to-please supporters.

WINDHOEK - Hardly out of his pair of shorts, the boyish looking lad from the notorious Bethlehem township in Khomasdal, showed glimpses of a complete footballer during his formative years with resident team, Young Devils FC in the early seventies.

Brian eventually matured into a competitive athlete under the tutorship of the late Geoffrey Zaahl. Mike and Olec Peterson, Lester Fourie and Ricky Gertze.

Remarkably, Brian made his international debut when he was selected to represent his native South West Africa in the Inter Provincial Schools Under-14 tournament in Cape Town. Some of his celebrated team-mates in the youth team were former Brave Warriors skipper Bimbo Tjihero, Willem Cloete, Ringo Skrywer, Lucky Iyambo and Jorge da Purificacao.

He also represented South West Africa during the annual South African Provincial Youth Tournament in the Under-20 age group playing alongside the legendary Frank Fredericks and former Warriors long serving skipper, Sandro de Gouveia.

His promising football career took a different turn when he enrolled at the Ella Du Plessis High School, in Khomasdal. It was at this learning institution that Brian would find himself in the good company of other highly talented youngsters such as fast-as-lightning winger Kosie Springbok and the Ndandu siblings, Harry and Martin.

"We had a great team and competed on equal footing with traditional household names Dobra and Augustineum," reveals Brian with a wry smile. When several youngsters from the neighbourhood decided to form a new football team, Brian was at the forefront and became a founder member of Civics Football Club.

The team wasted little time and joined forces with the popular Khomasdal-based Central Namibia Football Association (CNFA) under the stewardship of local football guru uncle Bobby Sissing, an affiliate of the militant South African Confederation of Sports (SACOS).

Civics became a major force to be reckoned with in the defiant league that was strongly opposed to a non-racial league in the absence of a united society with no racial prejudice.

Brian was billed among the main attractions of the popular football league that used to draw thousands of spectators to their games. Such was his popularity and football virtuosity that any representative team sheet without his name engraved on it would be considered incomplete by those in the know.

It was not long before the big teams from neighbouring Katutura started sniffing around for raw talent as they sought to beef up their ageing squads. Black Africa were the first to make inquires and subsequent advances as they sought to lure the nimble footed youngster away from what was then considered the country's 2nd tier league.

Isaacs eventually succumbed to the persisting advances and jumped ship to join his boyhood team - much to the annoyance of his team mates including his buddies who labeled him a traitor - bidding his unceremonious exit with the slogan "Judas", a reference that would stick until peace was restored in later years.

Luckily, Civics managed to replace their departed valuable asset with equally talented youngsters in the shape of Sputla Masite and Ricardo Mannetti. Brought in to fill the big boots of injured Black Africa's blue-eyed boy Lucky Boostander, Brian was laterally thrown into the lion's den but the youngster acquitted himself extremely well under trying circumstances.

He won the hearts of the team's diehards with a near faultless performance in his debut match after coming on as a 2nd half substitute against giant killers Sorento Bucks in the JPS semifinal. Brian fitted like a hand in glove and became the toast of the team's engine room, pulling the strings alongside the likes of Mike Peterson, Lucky Richter, Kandas Paulino, Dawid Snewe, Carpio Kauendji, Smithley Engelbrecht and Giddies Gawanab.

Brian won everything there was to win in domestic football and when Namibia gained her independence from the South African apartheid regime in 1990 - he was among the very first footballers to represent a truly Namibian football team internationally. Namibia hosted old time campaigners Zimbabwe in an exhibition match during the inaugural Independence Celebrations in 1990 and although the team lost dismally - Brian came out of the match with flying colours with everybody taking note of his incredible football prowess.

He was a member of the very first Brave Warriors that competed in the 1994 Fifa World Cup qualifiers, while he continued to entertain local football followers with his beloved BA until tragedy struck in 1996.

Aged 29, his blossoming football career was abruptly interrupted when the vehicle in which he was traveling with team mates en route to a tournament in South Africa overturned. He sustained severe brain damage, which resulted in him cutting short his football career while still at the pinnacle of his playing days.

However, the lion-hearted midfield genius did not despair and continued to serve the game. He returned to his boyhood team Civics in a coaching capacity - deputizing for one of the country's most celebrated football coaches, Gary Sales.

In the meantime, Brian advanced himself by sitting for several coaching clinics and courses seeking to sharpen his raw coaching skills. He worked his way up the ladder and was deservedly appointed Warriors' second in charge, a position he held for many years while he also played his part in the Warriors qualification for the 26th edition of the biannual CAF African Nations Cup in Ghana in 2008.

Perseverance finally paid off when he was given the reins as Interim Warriors coach after the sacking of Dutch mentor Arrie Schans, in the aftermath of a disastrous campaign in AFCON. He eventually parted ways with the national team and retreated to club football. He immediately announced his arrival with back-to-back NFA Cup titles with Orlando Pirates before a lesser success short stint with Tigers FC.

With former BA wunderkind Bobby Samaria making waves as the new kid on the block in his coaching role at traditional rivals African Stars, seeing him steering the success-starved Reds to greater heights in domestic football, BA could no longer stomach the humiliation of having to play second fiddle to their traditional rivals. The club sent an SOS to their former Messiah, and as they say, the rest is history.

In only his 2nd return to the BA hot seat, the likeable soft spoken incumbent BA mentor propelled the Gemengde-based outfit to back-to-back league titles and is currently on the verge of claiming a third one on the trot - come end of the season.

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