By Staff Reporter
WINDHOEK, May 13 — When it comes to Namibian football players with a golden touch, Riaan Cloete stands out as one of the finest. Hailing from Windhoek, Cloete’s journey in football began at AI Steenkamp Primary School in Katutura, where he displayed his skills and determination. Despite his small stature, Cloete never let that hinder his progress and soon became a dominant force in the centre of the park for his school team at David Bezuidenhout Secondary School in Khomasdal.
Cloete’s talent didn’t go unnoticed, and he was called up to the national under-17 team, representing Namibia at a regional tournament in Malawi. Although they narrowly missed out on qualifying for the African Youth Nations Cup, Cloete’s performance showed his potential. He continued to excel and earned a place in the under-20 and under-23 national teams.
One of Cloete’s fondest memories is defeating Swaziland over two legs with the under-23 team and going head-to-head against the South African Olympic team, which included notable player Daine Klate. With his skills, hard work, and dedication, it wasn’t long before he made his debut for the senior national team, the Brave Warriors, under coach Max “Zoda Five” Johnson. Cloete represented Namibia in various competitions, including the Cosafa Cup in Zambia under coach Ricardo “Bucksy” Mannetti, where he showcased his abilities against formidable opponents such as Bafana Bafana and Swaziland.
However, it was his time with Orlando Pirates that truly solidified Cloete’s reputation. In a twist of fate, he joined the team through an impromptu trial at the Moses van der Byl Primary School sports grounds in Soweto. Despite not intending to participate, Cloete’s exceptional performance caught the attention of Mabos “Vialli” Ortman, a former star player, who recommended his signing to the team management. For eight years, Cloete became the heart of the Pirates’ midfield, contributing goals and orchestrating plays with finesse. His time with the club resulted in victories in the NFA Cup and the Namibian Premier League, fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Unfortunately, in 2013, Cloete faced a setback when he suffered a serious knee injury that sidelined him for an entire season. The Pirates’ management decided to release him from his contract, leading him to join Hotspurs in the Khomas First Division. However, fate had other plans when newly appointed African Stars coach Ali Akhan advocated for Cloete’s signing. The Stars’ management initially had reservations due to his injury, but Cloete’s determination and talent convinced them to take a chance. What was supposed to be a six-month contract turned into a fruitful six-year partnership, with Cloete playing a pivotal role in the midfield alongside teammates Rudi Louw and Jamu Ngatjizeko. During his time with African Stars, he won two Bidvest cups, and a Standard Bank Super Cup, and added another league championship trophy to his collection.
Reflecting on his career, Cloete cherishes the memory of his outstanding performance against African Stars, scoring four goals to secure a resounding 6-1 victory for Orlando Pirates. Another standout moment was when he scored a hat-trick against the same Stars team in a league encounter. These matches exemplify his skill and impact on the field.
Today, Cloete finds himself facing the challenges of unemployment while residing on a farm with his parents in the Dordabis district. He acknowledges that life after football can be tough and advises young players to remain disciplined, work hard, and stay away from alcohol and drugs. Cloete emphasizes the importance of finding a balance between on-field success and planning for the future. He regrets not saving more during his playing days and encourages current players to be mindful of their finances and prepare for life after retirement. Despite the hardships he faces, Cloete remains grateful for the opportunities football has given him and hopes to inspire the younger generation to pursue their dreams while also preparing for the inevitable transitions in life. As he continues to navigate the challenges of unemployment, Cloete remains a shining example of resilience and determination, reminding us all that success on the field is just one chapter in the larger book of life.