Despite its relatively small population, Namibia has produced a significant number of high profile sportsmen and women since the country’s birth in 1990.
Apart from trendsetter Frank Fredericks, who set the international athletic arena on fire with his blistering speed on the athletic track, the likes of boxer Harry Simon, rugby players Andre Stoop, Jacques Burger as well as footballers Ricardo Mannetti, Collin ‘Collymore’ Benjamin, Razzie Tjikuzu, Mohammed Ouseb, Robert Nuaseb, Henrico Botes, Rudolf Bester, Deon Hotto-Kavenjii, Dudes Mwedihanga and Stigga Ketjijere all made their mark beyond the borders of their native land.
Sadly, a few of these previously celebrated sports personalities have fallen on bad times with very little to show off if any.
And whilst many put the blame squarely on the shoulders of these destitute athletes who have become a pale shadow of their former selves – former Brave Warriors goalie Ronnie Kanalelo (RK) remains the epitome of a footballer who kept his feet firmly on the ground and never allowed fame to take the better of him.
New Era Weekend Sports (NEWS) caught up with the athletic built muscular retired net-guard and asked him what made him tick where others wavered.
NEWS: Good day bro Rokes and thanks for taking time off your busy schedule to talk to us about the challenging football journey that took you across the Orange River.
RK: Jah!! It’s my pleasure and it’s good to talk to you as well.
NEWS: From the look of things, it looks like football has not given you a raw deal like it did to many of your peers who played professional football in foreign leagues.
RK: To be quite honest for me playing professional football was a boyhood desire. It was always my dream to play professional football since I was a young boy and when the chance presented itself, I grabbed it with both hands and knew exactly what I wanted to achieve.
NEWS: How did your move, the ultimate transfer to Mamelodi Sundowns come about at such a young age?
RK: It was during the period when the Brave Warriors went on an amazing run chalking unbelievable results against formidable African opponents. We were on an incredible run and everybody started to take note of our improvement as we beat strong opponents at a time when we were written off as the weeping boys of continental football. Actually, I joined Sundowns on the recommendation of the club’s chief scout, Screamer Tshabalala, while playing for the Warriors.
NEWS: When you joined Sundowns, what was it like football wise and the level of discipline amongst your teammates when you first arrive in Pretoria?.
RK: To be quite honest, there was not much difference between Namibian footballers and the South Africans in terms of natural skill and technical awareness. The only gab is that our players are not subjected to organized structures at an early age. The difference was also that they are taught the basics and how to adjust your lifestyle and behave like a footballer at an early stage.
NEWS: So what separates you from others since you also fall in the same background?
RK: It all boils down to self-discipline. I’ve never indulged in alcoholic beverages nor did I smoke cigarettes or engaged myself in undesirable activities. Football has a very short lifespan which requires lots of sacrifices and one has to be mentally strong while living a clean life avoiding the company of wrong friends and acquaintances.
NEWS: Having been there and seen it all, what advice would you give to young footballers aspiring to follow in your footsteps?
RK: They must remain focused and take football seriously and stay away from distractive elements. I’ve seen a lot of highly gifted footballers going the wrong way as soon as they start hogging the headlines on the back pages of newspapers.
NEWS: Bro Rokes, before we let you go, tell us a bit about life after retirement apart from coaching?.
RK: Well, I was fortunate that I’ve made a couple of good investments (tangible and intangible) while I was playing football and has been able to take care of myself after retirement.
NEWS: Thanks for your time and we would like to wish you all the best of luck in your future endevaours.
RK: My pleasure!.