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Ronnie Kanalelo: The Best Goalie Of All Time


Former Brave Warriors' Captain RonniemKanalelo and then Assistant coach for the Namibian national team has been in sport for more than three decades. Photo: @RonnyArchive
Ronnie Fillemon Kanalelo nicknamed ‘Magnet’ because of his goal keeping feats those days. Kanalelo is a former Brave Warriors goalkeeper and international footballer who competed with the likes of John Tlale from (South Africa), Raphael Chukwu (Nigeria), Daniel Mudau (South Africa) and the best squad of Mamelodi Sundowns in 1998 - 2005. Before went to South Africa Ronnie played with the local clubs such as the Eleven Arrows in (1991), Blue Waters in Walvis Bay in 1996, Black Africa F.C between (1993 and 1996) more respectively.

Ronnie Kanalelo is arguably one of the finest goalkeepers in Namibian football history and of his generation. The beanpole net guard is generally regarded as the man who stabilized and transformed a fragile Brave Warriors rearguard with breathtaking saves and aerial command during the smooth transition of domestic football under the stewardship of German mentor Peter Uberjahn and his deputy Rusten Mogane. Brother Rokes as also called he played a pivotal role in Namibia’s amazingly qualification in their maiden appearance at Afcon tournament in Burkina Faso in 1998.

Unlike many young boys of his age who started playing in a well improvised football pitches, Ronnie was preferred manning just two simple sticks in the wind-swept dusty streets of Kuisebmond, Walvis Bay. Ronnie started first honing his goalkeeping skills with his primary school teams,  Emmanuel Ruiter Primary and then Duinesig Combine School – the tallish athlete with an imposing figure started out to play competitive football for ambitious local outfit Super Stars, mainly comprising a bunch of enthusiastic young footballers from Kuisebmond neighborhood.  At age 15, Ronnie rose up the ranks and was snapped up by local giants Blue Waters, adorning the sports in coastal town along with the great Samuel “Bonnetti” Niilenge and Harris Thomas.

Ronnie Kanalelo born at Ukongo village in Ohangwena region on 23 May 1971, Ronnie relocated to the coastal harbour town of Walvis Bay with his mother while he was just two-year-old boy, hardly out of his nappies. It was in Kuisebmond where he hooked up with the likes of Eliphas Shivute, Titus Kandanga, Eliah Hipundjua and many other talented young footballers. He would feature for Super Stars in a number of exhibition matches and knockout tournaments where they were made to play second fiddle to their more celebrated counterparts Blue Waters, Eleven Arrows, Explorer Eleven and Namib Woestyn.

Despite having to live in the shadows of their more established Kuisebmond rivals – Super Stars became the toast of the township with their brand of beautiful football that captured the imagination of many a neutral fan. However, the team inevitably became a feeding side for the big guns with the majority of their playing personnel recruited at regular intervals to cross the floor for greener pastures in the top league. Ronnie joined boyhood team Blue Waters and after a few cameo roles as he had to play second fiddle to the great Bonnetti Niilenge – frustrations derived from lack of regular game time obliged Ronnie to jump ship and join forces with the Birds’ bitter rivals Eleven Arrows – much to the chagrin of the Blue Waters faithful.

He arrived at the maroon and gold outfit at the right time as Arrows was in the process of transforming their playing personnel with a number of highly gifted youngsters having been roped in to replace the old guard. Ronnie was to be reunited with old buddies Safile Shivute, Bobby Samaria, Elvis Eiseb, Stanley Louw, Sadike Gottlieb, Gheny Emvula, Sono Shivute and Oupaa “Horse” Tjizumaue in a well-oiled squad led by the tireless hard galloping midfield kingpin Ben Gonteb.

His presence between the sticks for the coastal outfit would propel the seasiders to greater heights as Arrows started to make serious inroads in domestic football and in the process also regaining the bragging rights in Kuisebmond by becoming the most feared outfit in the business. The rejuvenated Arrows surprised friend and foe when they won the country’s flagship league title in 1991, the same year Ronnie joined ranks with the maroon and gold outfit, one of very multi-cultural football entities alongside Katutura outfit Black Africa unlike most of their counterparts that were strictly established along tribal lines. His next stop was the first selected national under-23 side under the stewardship of Peter Uberjahn in post-independence in 1991.

Namibia hosted the regional Cosafa Zone Six youth tourney and Ronnie was amongst the selected players to represent their motherland. With the country in dire need of new goalkeepers following the retirement of Asaria Ndjiva Kauami, Lewa Awaseb and many other decent shot stoppers – Ronnie was the obvious choice and it came as no surprise when he was called up for the Brave Warriors warm-up match against Lesotho, in Maseru. Namibia recorded their first win following their admission to international football claiming a 2-1 triumph with Joseph ‘Draaitjies” Martin netting the opener. Aged just 21, Ronnie’s official Warriors debut was against Madagascar in a 3-0 drubbing in Antananarivo during a World Cup qualifier in 1992.

Ronnie has also disclosed the most embarrassing moment of his football career: ''We once went to play in Ivory Coast and we lost 6-1. I mean, to concede six goals was very embarrassing. The other one was when we played Super Sport United at Caledonian Stadium and they beat us 4-0. There was an aerial ball kicked behind our defence, just seems outside the box, and I came rushing out. As I wanted to head the ball away, I lost my balance and fell. As I tried to get up, I couldn’t get to the ball and the striker headed into an empty net. Actually, they made it the Moemish of the Week on TV. It was so funny!

Back at club level, the agile shot stopper continued his good form and many teams took note of his amazing exploits between the sticks. Black Africa came knocking on the door for his signature and as they say, the rest is history. The Gemengde outfit had just lost their number one goalie Dave Gaseb who relocated to Rosh Pinah having accepted a lucrative job offer in the southern mining town. Gaseb’s sudden departure left Angolan import Papi Matengu as the only net guard and they needed a reliable cover for the inconsistent Angolan shot stopper. As widely expected, Ronnie walked straight into BA’s starting line-up and went on to win almost every single silverware there was to be won on offer. He was a valuable member of the all-conquering BA side, duped the King of Knockout Cups.

In the meantime, both Uberjahn and Mogane, a former BA stalwart, would with time assemble probably the most competitive squad of all time in the history of Namibian football. That Warriors squad was moulded into world beaters with many teams including the great Ivory Coast, South Africa’s Bafana Bafana, Seychelles, Mali, Morocco, Cameroon and a host of African heavyweights feeling the wrath of the giant killers at what would become their favourite slaughterhouse, known as “the House of Pain”, the Windhoek Independence Stadium where many teams failed to manufacture positive results. Against all odds stacked against them and with not a single professional footballer in the squad, Namibia surprised many when the team qualified for the 1998 Afcon finals in Burkina Faso at the expense of continental heavyweights Kenya, Gabon and Cameroon.


South Africa's Odyssey 

Ronnie packed his bags and heading to Gauteng where he joined South African sport outfit, Mamelodi Sundowns F.Cs for an undisclosed transfer fee in 1997. The giant Namibian goalie made his debut for Sundowns against Wits University in a 1-0 win that saw him keep a clean sheet and went on to win several trophies and accolades in the highly competitive PSL and the African continent. His decorated trophy cabinet includes three league titles, Rothmans Cup, Telkom Charity Cup and a silver medal in the continental CAF Champions League. “We won the first leg of the final 1-0 at home in Pretoria but lost the decisive second leg 3-0 (3-1 on aggregate) away in Cairo against hosts Al Ahly in 2000.” In Sundowns he made lot of friends and contributed immensely to the ambition of the club.

During his time at Sundowns, Ronnie had the privilege of being coached by some of the world’s best football brains – Angelo Cappa, Paul Dolezar, Muhsin Ertugral, Clemens Westerdorf, Ted Dimitru, Viktor Bondarenko and Angolan mentor Ndjelma Calvanchade, amongst others. He also rubbed shoulders with some of the finest footballers ever to have graced South African shores led by Raphael Chikwu, Roger Feutba, Allan Amagou, Siaka Tiene, Pitso Mosimane, Isaac Shai, Joas Hlupi Magolego, Daniel Mudau, Alex Bapela, Augustine ‘Mtakhathi” Makalakalane, Joel “Fire” Masilela and Jethro “Lovers” Mohlala.

 “When I arrived at Sundowns I was made to fight for a starting berth with John Tlale and Zimbabwean goalie Nelson Bandura, so the competition was quite tough but later Bandura left the club and now it was always a two-horse race between John and me.” Ronnie could have a chance to play football overseas, but the he declined an offer from a Hungarian top football club. “The money they offered me was basically the same as what I was earning at Sundowns if one had to consider the high costs of living in Europe and other technicalities that come with being far away from home – hence my decision to decline the offer was absolutely.” It was here in South Africa that Sundowns made a bid for me that led to the glorious years in South Africa.

During his time in the highly competitive PSL, Ronnie faced many strikers but the former Brave Warriors agile shot stopper, he singles out former Orlando Pirates lethal goal poacher Jerry Sikhosana aka ''Legs of Thunder'' a worse nightmare for goalkeepers. “In those days there were very good strikers the likes of Shaun Bartlett, Pollen Ndlanya and a few others, but Jerry was a different kettle of fish. He was very competitive and an aggressive forward player – a typical old-fashioned centre forward who terrorized many defenders non-stop.”

On 01 July 2011 Ronnie moved from Sundowns to Maritzburg United he parted ways in 2013 after accepting the position of assistant coach with the Namibian national team.  In 2014 Ronnie went back to South African again after signed a contract as a Goalkeeping Coach with Bloemfontein. At that time Ronnie' Kanalelo was also managing UNAM FC along Brave Warriors as first assistant coach.  His contract in South Africa was supposed to runs until May 2019. He never stay long with new club he called a quit, and in December 2014 he came back to Namibia to resume a full time assisting coach for the Brave Warriors together with Ricardo Mannetti, head coach.

When Ronnie asked about his experience in South Africa especially at United Maritzburg, Brother Rokes was indeed very complimentary about the technical staff , and the professionalism of the management he expressed with much satisfactory to be part of United family. He is pleased with their training orientations and attitude the “sky is the limit” for them. "Although being there I always miss my family and the lights of Walvis Bay, but I adapt to live in Pietermaritzburg and settling in well"

Those days there was some allegations that Sundowns used muti or charmers to help winning the games: Ronnie said ''As a team Mamelodi Sundowns never used muti, so I was lucky in that sense. I remember one time, shortly after joining the team, I was chatting to Kenny Niemach and I said to him, “I’m surprised you guys don’t use muti.” He said, “No, the guys use it individually.” I said, “I haven’t seen anything yet.” He said, “No, no, no, you’ll see.” Then we played a midweek Rothmans Cup game against Bloemfontein Celtic and in the dressing room before the game I saw a black shoe polish being distributed among the guys, Daniel Mudau being one of them.

I didn’t know what it was and I thought, ag, it was a normal shoe polish that guys use to shine their boots with. One of the guys said, “No, my brother, there’s something in there.” I remember Bennett Mnguni was a member of the ZCC church (Zion Christian Church) and we used to call him ‘Sheriff’. One time he gave Paul Dolezar the ZCC tea to drink and Dolezar came back complaining, “I don’t want that tea anymore. That’s sh*t tea!” I think he drank it and it was too powerful, if you know what I meant, lamented Ronnie.

Ronnie also revealed that he never experienced financial woes while at Sundowns, although Sundowns still owe him one month’s salary. It was a misunderstanding just towards the end of the season. I didn’t even attend the club’s awards ceremony and I just got into my car and drove straight to Namibia. But we always got paid on time, except the one time when we were not happy about our Caf Champions League bonuses. We were beaten in the final in 2001 and I think the club was given R9 million. The agreement was that the money would be split into half between the club and the players, but I think I only got R15 000. The highest paid player probably got R50 000. I always knew that whatever John Tlale got, I got, but in this case that was different. The entire team was not happy. That was the lowest point of my career at Sundowns. After all the travelling and the conditions in Africa, we felt we didn’t get what we deserved.

UNAM

Kanalelo joined Unam during the 2015-16 season, and was tasked with assembling a youthful, competitive team which ended as the fourth best team in the NPL. Unfortunately, he requested that he be relieved early to pursue another career opportunity. We have granted that request,” Unam club chairman Frednard Gideon said in a statement. “He injected energy, he went about his job the right way, and most importantly, he produced results. Therefore, Unam Football Club would like to thank coach Ronnie for all the contributions he made to our team's success.” said Gideon.

Ronnie Kanalelo Assistant coach stand with Richardo Mannetti, Brave Warriors's Head coach. 
Football Retirement

After eight years of uninterrupted service with the Pretoria outfit, Ronnie hung up his gloves, as he desperately wanted to return home with the ultimate view of venturing into other business. Having enjoyed an illustratious playing career, Ronnie now is eyeing a coaching career after acquiring the Coaching Badges from the German High Level Course ''FIFA Goalkeeper Course'' that added credit to his sport profile. “I did coaching courses (level one and two) with SAFA while I was in South Africa.”

He also served has an instructor with the Namibia Football Association (NFA). “I stopped playing in 2006 so would not waste time getting into coaching. I did my training courses in Germany and South Africa. And a few more in Tunisia. I've been in this industry for 12 years. ”  Ronnie has turned down an offer to play his trade in Hungary, Eastern Europe.
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