be a winner

All images in this post are from the article linked below. These players were identified as ‘Tambo’ (Ocean Spurs) and Justice Basson (Rickets). I wonder whether/how much they were paid.

(This is a post from the Sunday Scholarship series, where I summarise academic articles into something a bit more easy to read. Overview here, other posts here.)

Title: Visualizing African football in apartheid Namibia: photography, posters and constructions of consumers and nationalism.

Author: Giorgio Miescher, Dag Henrichsen

One-sentence summary: Posters and photographs of football can reflect changes in Namibian society. First, ads reflected a “separate but equal” ideology; around independence they promoted multiracial images to sell their products to a new and growing black business class. I really recommend reading the full article here, if you can get your hands on it.

Longer Summary:

This article looks at the way football was represented in images (photos, posters, etc) throughout Namibian history. You can divide this poster-history into three stages.

Before Advertising

There’s some good history here on how the game got started in Namibia. Football was segregated of course, and there was an organised system from the early 20th century (Ramblers was founded in 1925), which was boosted when municipalities started providing sports fields in the 1960s.

This is when we get some of the first images of football, from the South West News, the first African newspaper in Namibia.The paper covered league matches, and published photos of certain stars. The newspaper explicitly discussed political matters, both in sport (an article about tribalism in sports) and more broadly.

Reaching a new Market


Football wasn’t interesting to marketers until the mid-70s, when the first sponsored tournament was held in Katutura. (The sponsor? Dave’s Furnitures. Previous tournaments had often been named after important traditional leaders).

But in the 70s the apartheid regime decided to soften up some of its laws: it tried to create an African middle class and set up “multiracial’ governments in an attempt to slow down resistance to apartheid rule.

Companies noticed these new customers and used football to target them: major brands like Windhoek Lager sponsored tournaments, big companies sponsored clubs “to promote their reformed image among their workforces”

Advertising now started to include faces that were not white, but usually still separate, like the model ad above. All-white teams also started playing all-black teams – with some typical condescension:

In these matches, it was said that the white teams ‘allowed the blacks to do the dribbling. However towards the last twenty minutes, when the black boys got tired, they left the ball to do the talking in a typical European fashion


But football wasn’t used much in advertising until the beginning of the next decade.


A New Namibia, brought to you by TopScore and Windhoek Lager

In the 80s, marketers doubled down on their efforts. The new African middle class market was growing steadily, and government scrapped the laws that prohibited black Namibians from drinking commercial beer. Namib Mills held a competition to find out how to market its new maize meal. A person from Mariental suggested that football would give access to a ‘black’ market, and so Top Score was born.

During the same time, South West Breweries (makers of Windhoek lager) started to change their posters to appeal to the new market. Before this period, they had very clearly targeted whites: its posters (and logo!) included the “Reiterdenkmal,” a colonial-era statue that memorialised the Germans who had died during the 1904-1908 genocide – rather than their victims.

But now they wanted to appeal to all Namibians. At first, their posters looked like the model poster above, with racial segregation. As the authors wrote, posters reflected the

Turnhalle politics of ‘ separate races’ in one ‘ multi-racial’ framework. Consumers, the message read, could share the same tastes and desires but should stay amongst ‘ themselves’


For example, they made two posters for ‘Windhoek Special’ beer, showing friends playing pool — but in one poster, all men were black, in the other, all white.

But as the political situation changed, so did the posters. In the early 1990s, just as Namibians were trying to imagine a new nation, the posters shower people from different backgrounds in one image. Interestingly, now there were different posters by class, with one poster showing more affluent, urban folks, and the other one showing rural scenes.

As the authors note, the only image on both posters is of the soccer players – an image that could “bind the nation together”

beer posters

Since then, football has been a constant feature of advertising in Namibia – especially for Windhoek Lager and other brand of beer. TopScore has also retained its branding, clearly with great success.


Parting Thoughts:

The first white club in Namibia historians know of was called The Savages. Come on, guys.

The Etoscha Lions in Tsumeb were so good that the whites in the area got special permission from the authorities to go and watch them play in the location.