Former midfield ace now a devoted church preacher

Brian Isaacs (left) receiving one of many awards from former Namibia Sport Commission chief administrator Rusten Mogane. File photo

Civics and Black Africa midfield kingpin Brian Gavin Isaacs will be remembered as probably the most successful coach in the Namibian Premier League.

In fact, the Windhoek born and raised retired playmaker holds the distinction of winning four league titles concurrently with Black Africa, and he also coached both Orlando Pirates and Tigers to a championship title each.

As if that is not enough, Isaacs has won every major cup competition in domestic football as a player with Black Africa, as well as two player of the series awards.

“I don’t want to sound arrogant but there isn’t a single cup competition that Black Africa didn’t win during our time. As we all know, Black Africa was the team to beat during that time and, if I am allowed to brag a little, our matches were already won before we entered the field.

“No team wanted to be drawn against Black Africa. We had very experienced players who were very ambitious and they protected the enviable reputation of Black Africa as the Namibian cup kings with distinction. I also claimed a few personal accolades,” Isaacs says.

Apart from winning the Metropolitan Cup with Civics in 1997, the gifted star also won the Castle Classic, Metropolitan and Namibia Football Association Cups cups with Black Africa.

And while doing so, Isaacs’s brilliance in the Black Africa midfield did not go unnoticed when he was named player of the series for the both the Castle Classic and Metropolitan competitions.

He started playing organised football for the under-12 team of Gammams Primary School, and represented the country from under-14 level right through the different age groups and up to the senior national team, Brave Warriors.

“My first national call-up was for the under-14 team, which also included the likes of Sandro de Gouveia, who later went on to play and captain both Blue Waters and the Brave Warriors with distinction, and Mario Carreira, who made a name for himself with Ramblers,” Isaacs says.

“There was also Lucky ‘Lovemore’ Iyambo, who later played for Tigers, and Dennis ‘Ngelema’ Hatuikulipi, who starred for African Blizzards before he also joined Tigers later. The young and gifted side was coached by Rusten ‘Sukhile’ Mogane who coached the Brave Warriors later.”

The former midfielder, who will be remembered as an influential player and a thorn in the flesh of his opposition, went on to play for the under-17 and under-19 schools teams, not knowing that he would one day coach these very same junior national teams.

It was during his days at Ella du Plessis Secondary School that he received his first junior national schools team call-up and, as he progressed to the more senior classes, he played for a neighbourhood team with his childhood friends called Manchester United, which was based in the Bethlehem Area of Khomasdal.

“I really enjoyed a beautiful football journey, especially after my former school teammates, who also played for Manchester, and I, joined Civics. Civics was an exciting team, consisting of talented childhood friends, who were mostly from Bethlehem in Khomasdal.

“I was player-coach of the youthful Civics team, a move which eventually evoked my dream of becoming a top coach in the country one day. I fondly remember guiding Civics to their first major cup title when we won the Metropolitan Cup in 1997,” Isaacs says.

He was part of the shadow national team that played against Zimbabwe during the Namibian independence celebrations at the Independence Stadium in Windhoek in 1990-91, and featured on the first national team that toured Lesotho in 1991.

Isaacs was also in the Brave Warriors team that received a 4-0 thumping at the hands of a star-studded Chipolopolo during the home leg and went on to lose the away leg by the same result in Lusaka, Zambia.

Brian Isaacs during his time as Black Africa coach when they won four consecutive league titles. File photo

The former Namibian Soccer Federation’s Player of the Season 1989, also played other games for the Brave Warriors against Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

“My journey as a national team coach was also very interesting,” he says. “I was appointed head coach of the under-17 national team in 2004 before I was made assistant of the under-23 national team in 2009. I had a two-year stint as interim coach of the senior national team.

“Between 2014 and 2016, I was assistant coach of the Brave Gladiators, before I was appointed as head coach in 2017 until 2019. In between, I was attending various Futuro coaching courses, including the International DBF coaching course in 2000.”

The former Times Player of the Season also won the NPL Coach of the Season award three times after winning the Namibian Premiership with Orlando Pirates, Black Africa and Tigers, while he also received the different clubs’ chairman’s award on all three occasions.

In 1998 he was awarded the Most Dedicated Member gong during his tenure as a member of the Pirates technical team.

Isaacs, who described his playing style as a combination of skills, tactical and technical, was also a 100m and 200m sprinter of note and equally excelled in long distance running during his secondary school days.

“I was always small in frame, thus I had to use my skills to get myself out of dangerous positions while I was also assigned to create goals for our forwards upfront. I think my endurance and stamina came in handy because I was a very committed player.

“I don’t hide behind my more physical teammates but I was constantly in the thick of things. Passing the ball, collecting again and making the next attacking move. My fitness level was never in doubt and that gave me an extra advantage over my opponents.”

He says it was an honour playing for and coaching the Brave Warriors after his playing career was unexpectedly cut short following a car accident in 1996.

Today, he enjoys semi-retirement, after serving the health ministry for over 33 years. He is the local preacher of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, a far cry from the days that he used to shout instructions to his players as a coach from the bench.

He got married in April 2006 and is a very proud father of an only child, and he credits his father, Willy Isaacs, as having a big influence on his football career.

Depending on the availability of funds, the retired midfielder says he dreams about starting Namibia’s first school of excellence “because everybody is just having a youth development academy these days”.

A self-proclaimed fitness fanatic during his playing days, Isaacs attributes his consistent performances to hard work.

“As a midfielder, there was no way I could hide away during matches, so I had to be top fit. I am more than happy with my achievements, both as a player and a coach.

“Today’s young players have the talent but they lack the self-discipline on and off the field. They have to commit themselves more to the game and improve their work rate in order to give their all to their teams,” he says.

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