Siggy Frewer, football’s great brain*
WINDHOEK – The history of Namibian football will be irreparably incomplete if the name of Siggy Frewer is omitted from the Hall of Fame. Up to this day, Siggy is one of very few former football administrators, if any, to be seen at local football matches at regular intervals, notably when his beloved Ramblers are in action.
A pioneer of multi-racial football – Siggy has been around the block a couple of times and has seen it all. His initial flirtation with football started during his younger days at the Deutsche Höhere Privatschule (DHPS) in the Namibian commercial capital Windhoek.
His involvement with the beautiful game has taken him to the untouchable Walvis Bay outfit Atlantis via Sport Klub Windhoek (SKW) – only to resurface at Ramblers Football Club in the intervening years.
Siggy Frewer is a living testimony to the unique and highly significant contribution he made towards the inevitable integration and growth of domestic football during the height of the South African apartheid regime.
Born to a musical family in Windhoek in 1941, father Willy was a respected conductor for the famous Windhoek Symphony Orchestra, while elder brother Freddy was a noted violinist in his own right.
Many expected young Siggy to follow suit but the musical bug failed to bite and the football-crazy Siggy ended up chasing leather, though his involvement with the spherical object was restricted to merely cameo roles with the school team’s second strings.
Despite his limited talent on the playing field – the game needed capable administrators to function well and this is where Siggy came in handy. As a youngster, Siggy started out at centre forward with childhood buddies Juergen Kotting, Achim Ecker and Flavi Ludwig to mention but a few.
In 1958, Siggy went to further his studies at the Herman School near Pietermaritzburg, in South Africa. Upon his return, he joined SKW FC and played for the club’s second team where he doubled up as secretary for the soccer section.
He found employment with giant stationery outlet Central News Agency (CNA) as sales representative before he took up an offer from rivals H H Enke as the company’s general manager for its news agency in the harbour town.
Siggy wasted little time and immediately joined Atlantis Sports Club where he was made club secretary. His vast football knowledge rubbed off on the players and Atlantis became a formidable force in the predominantly white national football league.
He was at the helm of the coastal side when Atlantis won the national league title in 1965 that paved the way for the club to represent South West Africa against South African champions Southern Suburbs at a packed to the rafters Rand Stadium in Johannesburg. Though Atlantis lost the match 6-3 – Siggy still harbours good memories of that unstoppable Atlantis outfit.
“We went the whole season without defeat and scored an amazing haul of 77 goals while conceding 7 goals. Ironically, four of those goals were scored by basement revellers Kombat/Otavi. Atlantis had a great squad loaded with highly talented footballers such as our captain Hermann Clausser, Dieter Steimitz, Norman Field and Herald Dennewell.”
Siggy also served on the Coastal District Football Association in the capacity of secretary and frequently travelled to Windhoek to represent the region at crucial meetings under the auspices of the South West Africa Football Association (SWAFA).
It was while in Walvis Bay that Siggy’s bachelor days were to be abbreviated as he met his match in a blonde young woman from Durban, going by the name of Joyce Smith, in 1966. “I think it was love at first sight because we tied the knot the following year,” recalls the 69-year old Siggy with a twinkle in his eyes.
His marriage to Joyce bore the couple two siblings, elder daughter Chantel and younger brother Warren.
Siggy relocated to Windhoek after he accepted a lucrative job offer from Barlows in 1972. “By that time, I’d lost contact with many of my former team mates at SKW and decided to join Ramblers when I came back.”
He was immediately drafted into the Ramblers structures as an executive member and made significant inroads into the top hierarchy of the Windhoek club before he was rewarded with a seat on the powerful SWAFA Executive under the tutorship of Chris Nel.
Siggy was among those few football administrators who had the courage to, and dared, confront the authorities to grant permission for the historic football friendly between the South West Africa white eleven and their black counterparts at a packed National Rugby Stadium in Windhoek in 1975.
“Our proposal was met with mixed reaction with some hardcore people very much against such an idea but fortunately the majority gave us the thumbs up and as they say, the rest is history.”
He witnessed his club Ramblers making a clean sweep in the final year of the lily-white National Football League. Rammies won everything on offer including the three major trophies, the Georges’ Cup, league title and the much-sought-after Hansa Cup in 1976.
The first season of multi-racial football saw Ramblers finishing runner-up behind double champions African Stars in both the National League and Mainstay Cup finals.
“Football was very entertaining and the crowds used to pack the stadium in large numbers. Most of the black teams were blessed with talented footballers but lacked the tactical ability of the modern game at the time. However, a team like African Stars adopted quickly under the tutorship of German coach Dieter Widmann and played attractive football – making them the envy of football followers across the length and breadth of the entire country.”
His perseverance with integration earned him the wrath of his own club members who branded him and fellow club executives Manuel Coelho, Andy Alfheim and Bobby Craddock sell-outs after the quartet lured players of colour in the shape of Bertus Damon and Eric Muinjo, to the lily-white Ramblers stable in 1983.
“Up to this day, I still cannot figure out exactly why some of the Ramblers’ diehards walked out of the club after we recruited black players. Sometimes I think they used that as a lame excuse to jump ship since the club did not have proper facilities, but we somehow managed to weather the storm. I have no regrets whatsoever for the decision to spread our wings to previously disadvantaged communities.”
Siggy developed itchy feet and left Barlows in a huff to open his own business Frewer’s Stationery in 1973. He used his business empire as a nest for unemployed players from Ramblers and the likes of Kenny Smith, Tollie van Wyk, Nikita Hivei and Lanie Madjiet, who were all fully fledged employees of Frewer’s Stationery until he sold his business to Waltons in 1996.
Unlike many former footballers who have turned their backs on the game that made them household names – Siggy is still passionate about football and has some encouraging words for Namibian football. “Personally, I think the standard of referring has improved tremendously over the last couple of years, though the overall standard of football is not as good as it used to be but I’ve noticed some improvement of late.”
However, he bemoans the dwindling interest in crowd attendance at local football matches and puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of clubs’ failure to curb some unruly behaviour of their supporters.
“I hope and trust both Ramblers and SKW will be able to lure back football supporters from the white community through their aggressive youth development programmes in the not too distant future,” he concluded.
Siggy could not resist a parting shot at football authorities. He reckons the league’s continued failure to deal promptly with outstanding disciplinary cases leaves them in a fragile position.
“In our time, the league’s executive used to gather every Monday evening with all clubs’ representatives to discuss and deal with disciplinary matters where the rules and laws governing the game of football were laid down to clubs and offenders fined accordingly.”
Siggy’s unwavering support and love for football has led to him being bestowed the distinct honour of ‘Patron of Ramblers Sports Club’.
* by Carlos Kambaekwa – New Era