Former goal ace now nurtures special future soccer stars

Lemmy Narib (back row second from left) with his Orlando Pirates team mates in the late Seventies. Photos: Contributed

When former Orlando Pirates (local) and Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa) striker Ismael Narib nicknamed himself ‘Lemmy Special’, after late South African penny whistle great Lemmy ‘Special’ Mabaso, he didn’t know that the name would bring him good fortune.

Anyone who saw the retired Pirates star in the mid-60s and late 70s would agree that he was indeed a goalscorer of note – a real special player.

In fact, his scoring rate was so consistent that he is still rated highly today among the deadliest strikers Namibia has ever produced.

Born at Bramberg settlement on the outskirts of Windhoek, the athletically built footballer was raised and spent his earlier years in Windhoek’s Old Location and at Karibib, before he moved back to the city in the late 1950s.

“My football was mostly played at school during my teen years. I was only 15 when I started training with Ramblers in the Old Location, before my dad got transferred to Karibib. I founded a team that I called Try Again upon my return to the city,” Narib says.

“Life in the Old Location got a little rough and I was almost hit by a stone while drinking water at a tap, which prompted me to move to Katutura to stay with my elder sisters. In Katutura, I was nurtured by a South African expatriate, known to me only as Johnson, who played tennis.”

Narib says there were no school teams during his time at the Rhenish Mission School but they had clubs, the reason he started the Try Again soccer team.

Lemmy Narib (right) with fellow Pirates legends Steve Stephanus (left) and Japhet Hellao.

He says Johnson would invite him to the tennis court, where he would hit the ball to him and he was expected to return it by kicking it back

The aim of the game was that he would hit the ball in intervals to Narib and the ball was not supposed to go higher than the net when he kicks it back.

“Now that is how I learnt to kick with both feet, and any striker in the world will tell you the importance of being able to kick with both feet because it also makes you unpredictable to both the opposing defenders and goalkeeper alike,” he says.

“Also, when I am in possession, I didn’t need to readjust the ball to my strongest foot because I kicked equally hard with both feet. The other thing that helped me was my speed because I had electrifying pace and I could outrun most of the defenders.”

In 1963, Narib, together with his childhood friends Gideon Erky Klassen and Hans Eichab, came up with the idea of forming a new team.

“On 14 April 1963, Orlando Pirates Namibia was born. There were other names suggested like Black Pirates or Katutura Pirates because like Pirates in South Africa was formed in Orlando East township in Soweto, we also hailed from Katutura,” the soft-spoken Narib narrates.

“However, on my insistence, we settled for Orlando Pirates and we even adopted the same black and white colours but only a slightly different logo although with the skeleton but not with the crossbones. I saw a photo of the Soweto giants in one of the newspapers of those years.”

The former star says Pirates became a very dominant force in local football, and because of their brand of entertaining football, they were able to attract some of the best players from across the country.

Pirates, with Narib banging in the goals at will, won every major cup competition and smaller township tournaments played at Keetmanshoop, Tsumeb, Walvis Bay, Khorixas, Otjiwarongo and Windhoek, who were the big tournament hosts back in days.

The Katutura Buccaneers won the Mainstay Cup, the predecessor of the NFA Cup, consecutively in 1977 and 1978, thanks to a 1-0 victory over bitter rivals Black Africa and a 5-3 triumph over SKW in Windhoek.

They also annexed the annual Easter Weekend Top 16 Tournament at Tsumeb, inspired by Narib’s goals in 1969, 1974 and 1977, while they earned a tough 2-1 victory over Black Marocco Chiefs to claim the Khorixas Tournament played at Otjiwarongo in 1971.

Narib may have enjoyed very special moments in the famous black and white jersey of Pirates, but there was no victory that was ever sweeter than the day they defeated Namib Woestyn in their own backyard, after they resorted to dirty tactics to try to win by all means.

“I have scored many hat-tricks in my career,” he declares. “But nothing will ever feel like the moment I returned from the doctor’s consultancy with stitches in my mouth to rescue my beloved Pirates from defeat at the hands of Woestyn in Walvis in a tournament final.

Lemmy Narib (centre) and Pius Eigowab (extreme right), both former Kaizer Chiefs players, during one of their many visits to the Kaizer Chiefs village at Naturena outside Johannesburg.

“I scored to give us a 1-0 lead, after which their star defender viciously elbowed me in my mouth and knocked me unconscious. A nurse among the crowd rushed me to a doctor by car where I received stitches in my mouth and a broken tooth.”

Pirates were trailing 1-2 when he returned to the stadium and there were only five minutes remaining on the clock when he begged to be fielded.

He took sweet revenge with two stunning volleyed goals from corner kicks to earn a last gasp 3-2 victory for his team and to complete what he describes as his most memorable, and proudest, football moment ever, after which the Woestyn players clapped for them.

Narib enjoyed many successes on the football pitch but another particular proud moment was when he scored 12 in three matches against visiting Kaizer Chiefs from South Africa.

“Well, I know that some people will argue that Chiefs were still in their formation stages in 1969 but they still had a few great players in their team. Chiefs were on a tour playing friendlies and scouting for new players to strengthen their team,” explains Narib.

“They played three friendlies against a powerful Central XI. I scored four goals in the first match on Saturday and repeated the same feat in our second match on Sunday morning. I rounded up the series with another four goals on Sunday afternoon.”

Chiefs invited the Central XI for a friendly and another match against the Orlando Pirates reserves in Johannesburg. The Namibians lost 2-3 that time but triumphed 5-3 over the Pirates reserves, with Narib scoring twice and coastal quest player Herman Pele Blaschke netting once.

Narib and Blaschke were asked to stay behind after they were made offers by Kaizer Chiefs supremo Kaizer Motaung and chief scout, the late Ewert ‘The Lip’ Nene, while the rest of the Namibian entourage travelled back home.

Narib came back for the Christmas break and went back for pre-season the next year and he was still getting ready for the new season with his Amakhosi teammates before his father summoned him back out of fear that he could be exposed to the criminal part of Soweto.

Lucia and Ismael Narib with their relatives their wedding day at Omaruru in 1979. Narib is a proud father of seven children.

“I have to admit, I was absolutely shattered by my father’s actions and I was gutted because I missed out on my opportunity to play professional football in South Africa.

“I am just happy that my good friend Blaschke made it. He grabbed his chance with both hands. I am not even surprised with what he achieved with Chiefs because in my eyes, he was the best player to come out of this country ever,” Narib concludes.

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