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Retired all-rounder now a devoted farmer

Former African Stars and Brave Warriors stalwart Steven Mbaisa, in his heyday, was one of those characters you can describe as an absolute beast on the pitch and the perfect gentleman off. Certainly, players with such a winning mentality and never-say-die attitude are rare to find nowadays.

Born at Otjiuetjombungu village in the Omaheke region, Mbaisa’s football journey started at Otjinene Primary School (now Ngatjizeko C Primary School). He was also a member of the Hereroland-West Under-13 team that won the Hereroland Schools Tournament at Okakarara, which drew schools from as far as Opuwo.

Mbaisa also played for the Goreangab Junior Secondary School in Katutura, where he finished then-Standard 5 (Grade 7) before he went to Okamatapati Combined School, and finally settled at Okakarara Secondary School, where he finished school.

“My football journey kicked off at Okakarara and I was exposed to very good footballers like Eliphas Shivute and Munyanda Muaine (both Eleven Arrows), Max Haraseb – who played for Life Fighters and later Liverpool, and Asia Tjitenda of Black Africa.

“I was playing for the school’s under-16 team under the captaincy of former Standard Bank managing director Vetumbuavi ‘Green Eyes’ Mungunda. I also played with the senior players for Superstars, which was a combined team of all the schools at Okakarara,” he says.

The former all-rounder was first spotted by Liverpool and former African Stars legendary defender Albert Tjihero, who went to watch a tournament at Okakarara while in Standard 9 (Grade 11). The African Stars, upon hearing that Liverpool were after his services, however, sent one of their exco members, Arnold Tjihuiko, to Okakarara to convince him to join Stars instead.

“I made my mark as an attacking midfielder at school and during the Caltex Under-20 Tournament, together with established players like Berlin Augumeb and his brother Imms Uwu-khaeb, who starred for Chief Santos, Zico Tjaverua and Oversea Tjongarero of Stars.

“We made history when we won the tournament as the Otjikoto region under respected coach Herman Katjiuongua, who made his mark as one of the most committed development coaches in the country. It was during that tournament that Steven Mbaisa the star was born,” he notes.

African Stars dangerman Steven Mbaisa (left) sprints past star midfielder Thomas ‘Tiger’ Xamiseb of Chief Santos during their BP Top Eight contest at the Independence Stadium in Windhoek in 1997. Photo: Conrad Angula

Although he was a bit of a very slow starter, his raw talent was still evident and once he started to pick up the necessary experience to compete in the highly demanding Namibian Premier League, there was no stopping the former Okakarara Secondary School pupil.

Mbaisa was also a flexible player who was very comfortable with any position that the coach wanted him to play.

Says Mbaisa: “I played mostly offensive while schooling at Okakarara, where I used to score and assisted a lot of goals. But the coaches of Stars at the time, like Gary Sales and George Gariseb who took charge after Sales was told to go, also preferred playing me in the defence.

“I was very versatile and could play in any position on the field. I even started off as a winger at start before I was deployed as a man marker against the likes of Ricardo Mannetti, Mohamed Ouseb, Congo Hindjou and Lolo Goraseb, against Civics, Santos, Liverpool and Black Africa.”

A renowned strong tackler, Mbaisa played as an offensive midfielder during the earlier stages of the major cup competitions but would be converted across the defence line at the later stages of the competition as the coaches would adopt a more defensive approach.

It was during Gariseb’s care-taking spell that Mbaisa was handed the Stars captaincy during a midweek league encounter against bitter rivals Liverpool at the Ramblers field.

He won the Castle Classic Cup and Holsten Premier League with the Samba Boys, while he is still reeling about their Metropolitan Life Cup final defeat to Chief Santos who went on to secure victory after a penalty shoot-out.

Mbaisa twice missed opportunities to tour with the junior national teams due to injuries. Firstly, with the under-19 team for the Helsinki Cup in Finland, and secondly, with the under-23 team to Westphalia, Germany.

“I also regret not being able to play professional football in South Africa although I had two opportunities to do so. I first went for a two-week trial period with SuperSport while they were still coached by former Liverpool great Bruce Grobbler.

“Those years Pitso Mosimane, who is today considered as one of the greatest coaches in South Africa, was still an assistant to Grobbler. I had another chance at Hellenic, together with George Hummel and we were later joined by Denzil Bruwer but I could not make the grade,” he says.

Mbaisa, who went on to win 15 senior national team caps, made his senior debut against Mali in 1993 after the Olympic qualifier with the under-23 team against Cameroon in Yaounde.

He describes his worse experience with the Brave Warriors against Congo when they went to Brazzaville, where they were subjected to very unsporting treatment, including when their opponents made them play on a wet unplayable pitch which was probably done to unsettle them.

Mbaisa, who won a Man of the Match title against Mauritius, was also a prominent member of the Cosafa Cup squad and he was also part of the Brave Warriors squad that was kicked out by the then Namibian Football Association president, Petrus Damaseb, after they demanded to be paid improved wages.

Former Brave Warriors star Steven Mbaisa is now a full- time cattle and goat farmer in his home village of Otjiuetjombungu, in the Otjinenene district of the Omaheke region. Photo: contributed

The retired star, who is still contemplating to tie the knot, is a proud father of four children (two boys and two girls) and a full-time farmer in the Otjinene district.

He says although he enjoys farming with cattle and goats, drought is a major challenge due to limited rain.

Although he retired from the game a long time ago, Mbaisa is still actively involved in football after he was approached by his former teammate at Stars, Maleagi ‘Marley’ Ngarizemo, to assist him at Young African, who are campaigning in the Namibian Football Premier League.

“I am still involved in the game. I am happy that I can contribute to the game that has given me so much joy to play during my youthful days. I am happy with what I have achieved in football and that I was able to travel the continent to represent my country.”

The retired star, who relaxes by walking long distances on the farm, says he misses playing big matches against the likes of Black Africa, Chief Santos and Civics, who were the tough teams to beat during his time at Stars.

“I mostly miss the preparation leading to the match day. The adrenaline rush before kick-off when you are lining up in the change-room to enter the field and the loud cheers from the crowd when you finally run onto the field.”

Mbaisa, who enjoys watching Kaizer Chiefs and Liverpool matches in the DStv Premier League and English Premier League respectively, advises young players to work hard, to be disciplined and to be devoted and dedicated towards the game in order to reach their goals.