Former Blue Waters versatile winger Riva Jakonia was one of the youngest players to ever don the blue and white colours of the coastal outfit in the mid-seventies and easily ranks among the finest footballers in the history of the Birds, as the seasiders are affectionately known among their ardent followers. And that’s not where it ends for young Riva - he enjoyed a successful stint with African Stars FC during his high school days at the Augustineum Secondary School in Windhoek where he established himself as a vital cog in the all-conquering Reds outfit, playing alongside legends such as Oscar Mengo, Kaika Kuzee, Ndjiva Kauami, Albert Tjihero, Kierie Tjituaiza and Ben Kauejao. His unmatched football prowess already at an early age was spotted by Kuisebmund outfit Eleven Arrows, but the strongly built youngster would have none of that as his heart was with his boyhood team Blue Waters. “I was really dying to play for Blue Waters but they had too many great players – leaving me completely torn up and of two minds but luckily Ranga Lucas and the late Pari Shekupe persuaded me to hang in there and be patient,” recalls Riva.
SWAKOPMUND – Sylvanus ‘Riva’ Jakonia was born on June 2, 1957 at the coastal town of Walvis Bay on the shores of the Atlantic ocean and his genes dictated he would be a footballer just like his elder brother Josephat ‘Moripe’ Jakonia was a great midfielder, a dead-ball specialist, notably from eleven metres out.
Inspired by the rock steady defending of the late Pari Shekupe, whose defensive acumen was a marvel to watch, Riva started playing football at an early age and was a founder member of West Ham United FC – a small team made up of young boys from the neighbourhood. “We played mainly in the dunes against the likes of Bentley United and other small teams and since there were no proper facilities at school level, the boys would sometimes play in different picked teams in the popular street games for small amounts of money. But don’t make a mistake - those games were highly competitive,” reveals Riva with thundering laughter. It was during those unofficial games that Arrows took note of Riva’s talent and approached the speedy and compactly built youngster to come and join forces with the gold and maroon outfit, but Riva was hooked to Blue Waters and dug his heels in the sand.
“The mere presence of Bernard ‘Da Costa’ Philemon, Zondi Amadhila, Lemmy Lazarus, Ranga Lucas, Pari Shekupe, Simon ‘Motwa’ Mwandingi, Pwiro Angula, Capro Ngapurue and Jerry Shikongo made it extremely difficult for one to carve himself a place in the Birds starting line-up, but I was very determined to play for Blue Waters despite the fact that I could have waltzed easily into the Arrows starting line-up and enjoy first team football.”
When the chance finally came, the young Riva, an all-rounder was thrown in at the deep end and played his first game for Blue Waters as a right wing. The football crazy youngster had the required potential to operate from any position on the field of play.
“Luckily, we were always eleven guys, occasionally with only one reserve player, so I played my lungs out forming a deadly combination with Jerry Shikongo, Julius Stephanus and Simon ‘Motwa’ Mwandingi.”
After a few games, young Riva moved to the city of lights to further his schooling at the Augustineum Secondary School in 1973 and immediately joined Golden Bees FC and walked straight into the first team where he joined forces with the likes of Mentos Hipondoka, Berro Thobias and Jerry Tjizoo.
“We competed fiercely against the likes of Windhoek City and Rocking Brothers on weekends,” he recalls. He also made it into the school’s first team at the first go and would occasionally feature for Katutura glamour football club African Stars as a guest player whenever the need arose.
“I was in fact recruited by Oscar Mengo and really felt humbled to be invited to play for such a big club who had such a great bunch of players in their squad.”
Riva went on to represent the Western Invitational XI on many occasions and was one of five members from Blue Waters together with Ranga, Lemmy, Mathew and Bonnetti to represent the South West Africa Black XI in the historical exhibition match against their white counterparts at the packed to the rafters Suidwes Rugby Stadium in Windhoek in 1976.
“It was a great match of football, we had the white blokes chasing shadows for the better part of the game but they had the advantage of knowing the basics of football while their disciplined playing style came in handy for them.”
“In those days, we had great footballers and many of us could have gone all the way and played professional football abroad had it not been for the ugly apartheid system.”
In the meantime, the all-rounder became a vital cog in the Blue Waters engine room and steered the Birds to several successes in knockout competitions.
He was part and parcel of the Birds outfit with the inevitable introduction of multi-racial football in the country in 1977 and oversaw lots of generations at the Kuisebmund-based side alongside Ranga, Motwa, Mathew, Jerry, Kapuii, Immanuel Kamuserandu, Julius Stephanus, Boy-Boy, Lemmy and agile shot stopper Bonneti Neilenge in the intervening years. His astonishing football career came to an abrupt end when his beloved Blue Waters lost to an Oscar Mengo inspired African Stars in the final of the coveted Mainstay Cup at a packed Windhoek Stadium in 1984.
Stars emerged 1-0 winners after extra time through Mengo’s controversial header. “You see, we were well prepared and to lose in such a way is honestly heartbreaking, and up to this day we feel cheated. All our players and supporters were in unison that the goal should never have been allowed since Oscar’s goal was aided with the ‘hand of God’. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my last years with Blue Waters, as a direct result of the arrival of Ivo de Gouveia, Donny Renzke and Uwe Bachman. Those guys brought a new dimension to our game and above all, structural discipline.”
“We managed to combine both our natural flair with discipline and became a very tight unit and I must confess I always enjoyed our battles against African Stars. They had this boy going by the name of Bernard Newmann – he was quite a handful and packed dynamite in both feet. I also cherished our confrontations with Black Africa, because the arrival of Dawid Snewe and some other youngsters changed the landscape of domestic football and it was quite difficult to cope with their pace since we were getting a bit long in the tooth.
“Luckily, our wide awake technical department responded by countering them with the introduction of equally dangerous youngsters such as Koko Muatunga, Britho Shipanga, Webster Shifombabi and Leo Koutondokwa.”