They say courage is the most important of all qualities and that without it one cannot practice any other virtue consistently.
One person with whom that expression resonates is retired former midfield maestro, Johannes ‘Congo’ Hindjou.
Being one of Namibia’s most celebrated soccer players in his time, Ngumeritiza – as Congo is known to parents, relatives and childhood friends – discovered at an early age that the said courage is not necessarily the absence of fear, but the acquired ability to move beyond that fear.
As such, even when his football career appeared to be moving against the tide – with club bosses bungling his international deals out of greed – the Okahandja native did not waver but kept his eyes on the ball and his focus intact. It will suffice, at this point to say that Congo embodies the terms patient, persistent and perseverant. And it goes without saying that these qualities propelled him to his current status as Namibia’s most capped footballer.
While many will remember Congo for scoring the memorable goal against Gabon in Libreville, which took the country to its first and outwardly last African Cup of Nations Tournament in 1998, it has emerged that there is more to Congo than his finesse in taking penalty kicks and delivering through passes on the pitch. Congo has defied the stereotype, that all retired footballers go the coaching route. He is now a player in the business world and the boardroom is his new playing ground.
Hindjou is also the Managing Director of Safesky Namibia, a company that offers customers a one-stop security, surveillance and air charter services tailored to their individual needs.
“I am also doing business in the fishing sector where I'm having shares in Tukondja Trading Enterprise. The company has a red crab quota. I’m also a shareholder in Centani Investment, a multifaceted enterprise,” Congo told this writer.
In addition to his business endeavours Congo is a cofounder and deputy president of the Namibian Football Players Union (Nafpu), a trade union geared at improving the working conditions of football professionals in the country.
Born 38 years ago at Ombujotjimbari near Okahandja, in the Otjozondjupa region, the story of Congo’s life is no different from that of many a super star in Africa. The footballer was raised in a family of five children; four boys and one girl – and hordes of visiting cousins, that came and went. He maintains that they did not have much growing up, but his now deceased father – who died in 1991 - and mother did all they could to ensure that all of them had something to eat and clothes on their backs.
“Pap with meat or milk was the daily staple meal for us. My parents struggled to raise all of us because they just work for little money to take care of a family of up to ten people. But I have to say they went out of their way to make us all happy. I can't recall a single day that we went to bed on empty stomachs,” the footballer says sentimentally.
Growing up in the Nau Aib residential area in Okahandja, for him becoming a footballer was a given. He maintains that he started playing competitive soccer at the age of 15 when he joined Morocco City Stars, a local team in Okahandja.
Admittedly, he joined Morocco with the aim of using it as a springboard to his then ultimate destination – the mighty Golden Arrows. His stint at Morocco lasted only four months and served its intended purpose.
Joining Arrows, he recalls, was more like joining a family as both coach, Teacher Afrikaner and his wife brooded over the young players as if they were their own kids, as such all players’ food and clothing needs were taken care of.
“We were giant killers, ask Young Ones FC,” Congo enthuses adding, “Our biggest rival was Spoilers FC from Okahandja. Unlike now, those days soccer enjoyed a lot of support from the masses and the stadiums were always packed during our matches.”
Hindjou recalls that Arrows was the best team in his amateur career. It is also at Arrows that the exploits of the talented youngster caught the roving eye of Jamanuka Tjihero, former coach of the then Namibia Premier League club, Liverpool FC.
He maintains that he was reluctant to leave Arrows, but his relentless dodging did not deter Liverpool from pursuing his services.
“Jamanuka Tjihero (Liverpool’s coach) always picked me up from my parent’s house and drove me to Windhoek were he bought me KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) and give me money, as tried to convince me to join Liverpool, but the next day I'd be back at Arrows for training,” Congo remembers adding that Liverpool’s quest to procure his services irritated his teammates to a point of getting pissed.
“They tried all the tricks in the book to get me. They even tried to convince my mother, to coerce me to sign up, but she refused to be dragged in the middle of this,” Congo says.
Eventually a time came in his life when growth became inevitable. To the delight of Liverpool’s management and dismay for fellow players at Arrows, Congo got into the books of the premier league side in September 1994. That year, donning the number 15 jersey, Congo won the Classic Cup with Liverpool and was voted Player of the Tournament. This saw him walking away with a Golden Boot trophy and a ‘whopping’ N$2000. Christmas started early for the Hindjou household.
“It was 1994 and N$2000 was a lot of money. Coupled with the winning bonus that every player got, I remember that I became the main man in town after the tournament. I also treated my family, particularly my mother very good.”
This was the first of other trophies that Congo went on to win with the star studded Liverpool club which included the likes of former national team captain Bimbo Tjihero, Namene Philmon,China Utoni, Killian Kavari, Erastus Gariseb, Chicken Kaengurova, Kasee Top, Hellao Naruseb, Max Gamseb, Touffie Mbako, Kasebe Mbamba, the late Syvanus Ndjambari, Donald Tjikune, India Katjivena and the late Seven Endjala.
It was not long before he caught the eye of national team selectors and in 1995 he got his first call for national duty – as part of Eric Muinjo’s under 20 team that travelled to Germany, Finland and Lesotho.
“I played 10 games and scored four goals for that team,” Congo said. He received his first call up to the Brave Warriors in 1996 – following his crowning as the Young Sportsman of the Year – the previous year.
His first game was the 0-0 draw against Bostwana in Gaborone. He got his first goal for the national team against the same team in the return leg in Windhoek, were he scored two out of the six goals for the national team. The Brave Warriors won the match 6-0. With 10 goals in 69 games Congo is the second highest goal scorer for the national team to date. He is also the highest capped player in Namibia. Also a notable fact, Ted Dumitru is the first coach to have appointed Congo as captain for the Brave Warriors and went on to captain the national team for more than 20 games between 2001 and 2006.