Unlike many of his peers who confined themselves to the playing field, former Sparta football club’s flying winger-cum-midfielder Carlos de Gouveia was a jack of all trades and master of all.
The stocky playmaker was amongst very few footballers who went on to serve on the executive of the country’s truly first multi-racial football governing body, the now defunct South West Africa Football Association (SWAFA).
Born in Madeira, Portugal in 1953 and the third of five siblings, Carlos started playing football at an early age, turning out for Sporting Lisbon in his native Portugal.
“I played for the Sporting youth team before the family relocated to South West Africa (SWA - Namibia), settling in the southern harbour town of Lüderitz,” narrated De Gouveia during a previous interview with this publication.
However, a few years later, his family resurfaced in Walvis Bay, and it was at the freezing Atlantic Ocean shores where Carlos would start playing serious football. “I joined local club Sparta, a team which consisted of a strong Portuguese representation amongst the playing personnel.”
Aged 17, he teamed up with elder brothers Joao and Ivo in the purple and white strip outfit, campaigning fiercely in the then white National First Division. The league was quite competitive with great teams, spearheaded by SKW, Ramblers, Talpark, Wanderers, Tsumeb, Otavi/Kombat, Okahandja Manschafft, Otjiwarongo, Atlantis, Swakopmund FC and Karibib.
With Carlos marshalling the seasiders’ firing line, Sparta became the toast of the domestic football league with their flawless brand of carpet football. History will reveal that Sparta was the only team that challenged and brought to a halt the Don Corbett-inspired Ramblers’ dominance in the domestic football league.
Carlos went on to win almost all there was to be won in domestic football, and was a valuable squad member of the South West Africa White Invitational Eleven that defeated their Black counterparts 2-1 at the jam-packed Suidwes Stadion in 1976.
The first match ended in a three-all stalemate the previous year under controversial circumstances as the whites were awarded a highly disputed spot kick in the dying minutes of an otherwise electrifying match in front of a sold-out crowd.
As it turned out, that particular match led to the unavoidable birth of multi-racial football in Apartheid South West Africa the following year, 1977.
“We were the first football club to welcome footballers of colour in our midst after signing the great Pius Eigowab (African Wanderers, South Africa), Doc Hardley (Umlazi Citizens, South Africa), whilst the likes of Alan Dickson, Arthur de Bruyn, Collin Lakey, Bobby Kurtz and Cruyff Kudulu also joined the fray”
“Football was very competitive in those days, but I must confess we always found the going tough against African Stars. They beat us 5-3 in a friendly match at our home ground in Walvis Bay during the first meeting. We had a very strong squad and would beat most of our opponents in the new set-up, but we had never beaten African Stars,” he reminisced at the time.
One match that stood out in his mind was the exhibition clash against the visiting Stellenbosch University side at Walvis Bay. The hosts ran out 3-0 winners with Carlos netting a hat-trick, which earned him the Man of the Match accolade.
Carlos made his debut for South West Africa (SWA) in the South African Inter-Provincial Currie Cup tournament in Johannesburg in 1974 and then appeared again in Durban in 1976, having missed the 1975 edition through work commitments.
The dribbling wizard was also selected for the first-ever multi-racial Currie Cup side in 1977 alongside elder brother Ivo, but could not make the trip across the Orange river because of other pressing matters outside football.
Carlos also tasted a bit of international football when he featured for Sparta and Atlantis (guest player) against a visiting German team in Walvis Bay. And when South African glamour football club Kaizer Chiefs visited SWA for some exhibition matches at the Katutura stadium, Carlos was in the starting line-up for the host’s Invitational Eleven.
The soft-spoken, pocket-sized attacker had always cited former teammates Ronnie Dagnin, former Scottish youth player John Hazel and elder brother Ivo as his favourite footballers of his generation.
He also had great admiration for African Stars’ midfield general Oscar ‘Silver Fox’ Mengo. “I liked him a lot for his amazing football brain, skill and above all, Oscar was a true gentleman on and off the field”.
It was during his tenure as chairman of Sparta football club that the coastal club defied local authorities to recruit footballers of colour to their nest, very much to the chagrin of the men in camouflaged uniform.
Upon retirement from playing competitive football, Carlos represented the Coastal Football Association and Coastal Referees Association in various portfolios. He was also elected executive member of SWAFA, under the mentorship of astute football administrator-cum-politician, the late Danny Tjongarero.
In the meantime, Carlos’ untimely passing has sent shockwaves amongst the Namibian football fraternity, particularly former teammates and those he rubbed shoulders with on the football