Eliphas Shivute Interview
Waiting For The Great Leap Forward, 9 May, 1998
at Eliphas’s Home, Motherwell, April 17, 1998
Where did you grow up ?
I was born in a village called Olukonda in the far North of Namibia and I moved at a very early age to Walvis Bay which is a coast town. There I grew up, had education and began work.
What made you decide to leave football and go into the mining industry?
Back home we are just doing football for the love of sport. Here in Europe football is business, in Namibia it just to keep you busy. Our country is very talented but there is no money in football, no coaches, no proper equipment. Eventually I had to leave football to gain an income to support my family, I played football but you get nothing out of football and I must support my family. I left football to go and work in the mining industry for a time, but I soon realised that there was some secret still left in my football, and I took a chance to go back into football, it has worked out that I am here.
Was Germany the only option when the chance came to play abroad, and how did that come about?
Yes, it was, but that was the start. In Namibia we do not have the Agents and Scouts like they do in Countries like Nigeria, you would only have heard of Namibia just because of me. Scouts were never in Namibia, we are only a small country and the football is not all that advanced. A friend of mine in Namibia I met with and he organised everything and got me my move to Germany, without his help I would still have been there.
What convinced you that Motherwell were the club you wanted to play for as in Scotland clubs like Dundee Utd and Hearts, with whom you also had trials, are arguably bigger clubs?
Although I did well with the other two clubs on trial I preferred to play with Motherwell because when I first came to Scotland it was the team with which I first started my trials. They received me very well, gave me very good treatment, and I liked the atmosphere around the club - it was like a family. Although I could have made better money with the other two clubs at the end of the day money is not everything, what matters is where you feel at home and where you feel most comfortable and that was in Motherwell.
What were your impressions of Fir Park when you saw it for the first time?
It is a massive stadium, it was the first stadium I saw when I came to Scotland. Ibrox and Celtic Park are bigger but for a club like Motherwell Fir Park is good enough, it suits the club.
When did you hear of Alex McLeish’s departure and what did you think of the whole situation?
I heard about it when I was still in Burkina Faso for the African Nation Cup Finals with Namibia. I wasn’t able to keep up-to-date with what was going on and that was all the news I heard, all I knew was he was leaving and there was no reason so it is difficult to emphasise on such a point. Now it is history and he is gone. It was a surprise, I learned very much from him and he was a very good coach, he was the one who gave me the opportunity to play and for that I have great respect for him.
What relationship do you have with the current Motherwell Manager, Harri Kampan, and how do you view him?
He is a good Manager. If you can see the progress of the team in the last few games that we play, the team is playing well. He has brought in some changes, I hope it will be up front. We now face Celtic and after that we have three games left and we hope to do well. I have only started playing since I came back from Burkina Faso, I was not playing before that so I was not in the first team and Lost my position. If the other guys who take over your position are doing well then no hard feelings it is fair that they play. I have got my chance again and I hope to take it. Once you are on the field he can’t help you, you must help yourself.
How do you prepare for a match? Do you have any special preparation?
If we are playing at home I generally stay at home and concentrate before going to Fir Park. It depends, f it is an away match like at Aberdeen or Dundee United the team gets together for am meal.
Are there any players you would recommend to Harri Kampman?
There is a lot of talent in Namibia and I am in a position to open the door for the players to impress and perhaps come over to here. There are no scouts or persons to assist the players to come over here, it is not easy and no-one really knows about Namibia, and if I do well here then it will be much easier for the players to come.
Have you seen anyone at Motherwell you would consider a great prospect for the future?
There is a youngster playing in the Youth team, his name is David but I have forgotten his surname. The Goalkeeper in the Youth team also, he looks very brilliant and you can say they mean something for the future.
Before joining Motherwell you used to play in the Namibian Midfield. This changed under your former Manager Alex McLeish, who moved you up front. How did this affect your game at the National Level and do you think you could do better feeding the forwards?
Since I started to play football maybe up to two years back I was playing as a midfield player and for me to play now as a forward, a striker is not a problem. Actually what makes you a good player is the players around you, when you are playing with quality players around you then it is obvious you’ll become one of them. A striker is actually a good position, you need to work hard and have instinct but people must also support you with the ball. It hadn’t affect my play, I am an all-round player actually, like now I am playing as a winger. You can play me right-wing, left-wing, behind the two strikers I will just play.
The Namibian Football League, to what standard is it played and would any of the current teams survive in Scottish Football?
It is very hard to say because if you talk about the National Level then I will say yes, but if you talk of the local football it is quite difficult. You can have the talent, the players and the skills but if you don’t have the finance, the right equipment’s or the right coaches your level will be short and you cannot go above that.
Do you like the current Motherwell away strip?!!
It is a nice strip, I like it very much. I like it much better than the other one, the home top.
Away from football, how do you relax?
I have some friends here, the friend who made it possible for me to come to Scotland is visiting just now. I visit Glasgow and Edinburgh just to see something new apart from football, you cannot be just football, football all around you.
Are you married and do you have a family?
I am not married. I have two kids, a daughter and a boy aged five and just under two years old.
You seem to come from a sporting family with your brother Sakkie Shivute making headlines in boxing. Can we expect another Shivute making it onto the International Sporting arena?
Our family has eleven brothers and two sisters, and out of that thirteen so far there are just two to the International level. I don’t think from the others someone might come up, but perhaps from my son, or my daughter, or perhaps Sakkie’s son. It is a very big possibility because we are a very talented family. Both my son and my daughter look very good. I would not want my daughter to follow me into football, for her that is not good enough and she can go to athletics, tennis or those kind of things. She is fast and of strong build and she is very sportive. My son also, we will just give them a chance and we will see.
Do you watch much in the way of television and are there any programmes you never miss?
I am a music man, I always watch SKY, CNN for the news, I watch Jerry Springer, and football also.
Frankie Fredericks, how does it feel to be quoted in the same way i.e. as an International Celebrity?
Frankie is the biggest and will always be the biggest in Namibia. He is a hero to all of us you see. We are still kids, he has reached the highest deck and we are still at the bottom. There is no way we can reach him and he will always be up there. I am quite happy with me, I haven’t got that far yet, I am still at the lowest deck but lets hope - this type of things takes hard work, some luck and all those kind of things.
Who has helped you most in your career?
Jacob Amaning who is visiting me just now. He is the one who got me the connection to Germany, he got me to where I am today. He is just a hard-working guy trying to do things for people who deserve it.
Who is your best friend in Football?
It is a guy called Ronnie Kanalelo who is the Namibian National Goalkeeper who is currently playing with Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa. We are like brothers, we grew up together. All the way from playing as kids we reached the National Level together, the only thing which separates us is that he is in South Africa and I am in Scotland.
As a developing footballer, where there any footballers you admired and wanted to be like?
Not actually, you see I will always be Eliphas, I don’t want to be compared with any of the big players, I will always be me and there will only ever be one Eliphas. It is very difficult to compare with this player or hope you could be that one. You must just concentrate on what you are doing and hope for the best for yourself.
What has been your happiest moment in football to date?
It was actually when I scored my first goal against Rangers, such a massive stadium and a massive crowd more than 50,000. I have never played in such a huge crowd before and to have scored against a club like that is a great honour, and to be on the same pitch as guys like Laudrup and Gascoigne is a dream come true. I never think that could happen that soon and I came out with a goal.
And the moment which has disappointed you most of all?
Sometimes if you maybe play a good game and you maybe expect to be in the team the next time around and you are not, each and every player will be disappointed. You cannot take this kind of thing personally because it all depends on the Management, they know what they are doing. If they do not come and explain to you what happened and why that is why you are disappointed, but once they come and explain to you it is because of this or this it is much better. There are many disappointments in football but I believe in hard work and prove yourself and all these kind of things will be eliminated. If you do not work hard all these kind of things will come up on you and you will have this load for a long time, it will also be a problem in your career. Hard working is actually the key to everything.
Which goal do you rate as your best and which your most important?
We went to Burkina Faso and I scored two goals against a strong side called Ivory Coast. That was not that easy, Ivory Coast is a big nation and two goals against them is quite a good achievement. I think they were very good goals and I rate them as some of my best, and I hope there is still some good to come.
Have you seen much of Scotland since you arrived and if so which part impressed you the most?
I haven’t seen that much, just mainly between Edinburgh, Motherwell and Glasgow. We are so busy training, after training you are so tired you don’t have much time to see. The programme is always occupied with things. Maybe in the off-season I will be able to travel all around.
How have you found the people of Scotland?
They are quite polite people, I don’t find any problem to be around here with them, the supporters are also good. They are good people.
Which Stadium has impressed you most and which one would you not wish to return to?
I think Ibrox, it is a very massive stadium, very nice and very wide. There is plenty of space to play there and the crowd is so huge. So far there have been no grounds too bad.
Which player would you consider to have been your toughest opponent?
With my way of playing I never struggle against an opponent. Once I find that maybe after ten minutes he is quite difficult then I switch over, I never allow it to play the entire 90 minutes with just the one opponent. If I am doing well against him then I will remain there. It is very difficult for me to say who as I move from position to position.
How do you see your Career at Motherwell going?
Motherwell are a good club. I have a two-season contract and I just hope things will go smooth. There are always ups-and-downs, it is difficult to predict whether or not it will be okay or bad or whatever, you can never emphasise on that too much. I just hope for the best and see what happens in the future.
How do you feel the pressure of being regarded as one of the top emerging players at the recent African Nations Cup Finals affected you?
I think that those kind of things will actually make me a better player, it encourages me. Because if people are talking about you. It gives you more courage you see, to do much better and to prove yourself . If you are doing well anything can happen, you must keep your head up.
Now that you have made the breakthrough in Scottish Football, do you see any of your Namibian team-mates like Robert Nauseb, Ricardo Monnetti, Mohammed Ouseb or even Gerros Uri-Khob making similar progress here or elsewhere?
I would perhaps say elsewhere because it is quite tough for we Africans to adopt to the Scottish football. It is not quite easy with the way the set up of the football is. We are more technical, more relaxed, but in this football you must work very hard for the full 90 minutes which I was not used to but I am here and I just need to adopt it. It is very physical and full of running, and together with the weather it is not a good combination. The weather is not so good, wet snow and rain it takes some time to get used to.
With the tremendous progress made by the Namibian National team, how do you see them going under the new Caretaker Manager?
Since he has been in charge I have not played under him, the first game against Zimbabwe in Harare on 19 April. It is much easier to judge after the event because I have never worked with him before, I just know him from a distance so I must just wait and see.
It has been documented that you were approached by several top Clubs in Burkina Faso, how did you deal with them abd did this affected your performance?
It did not affect my performance, you see it is the way football is. All over the world it is like this, if a team likes you or is interested they will approach you. In International Level it is wrong for a team to approach a player, so I was very careful with this situation and handled it very carefully. A player can never be approached by a club directly so things must go through your club, you must do things under contract and respect your club, things must not be done behind the clubs’ back, it will never be okay so all these kind of things you ignore it. It is very dangerous to talk about these kind of things, Motherwell give you the contract and you must respect everything within the contract and to do things behind them would not be good and I knew that so I avoid all these kind of things. I refer all these kind of people to Motherwell so up to know I don’t know what happened whether or not they have been in contact with Motherwell so I will never know.
What was the reception like when you returned to Namibia from the Nations Cup?
It was good, we did okay but not enough, I believe we could have done much better. I didn’t expect the reception back home to be that great for me it caught me by surprise. We could have got better points than just one point, it was not enough. I was happy with our performance because it was our first time to take part in the cup. And what the people saw themselves if we can get a second chance we will do much better. . And what the people saw themselves if we can get a second chance we will do much better.
The party after the Cosafa Cup Win over South Africa was apparently legendary. What did the win mean to the players?
It was a great moment, to beat a country like South Africa is a serious matter because it is one of the best in Africa. The whole of the South African team, the full team, the Reserves, whatever, they have over 40 players playing in Europe and are professional. With Namibia, 90% of the team are local players, so to play a team like South Africa and to end up beating it is a huge achievement. It is ten steps up and we have a reason to celebrate.
Can Namibia win the Cosafa Cup this time round?
I think we have a chance to win the cup, football is not a fixed science and anything can happen from time to time. Don’t make a mistake, we are a good side and we can adapt to any situation, but a good start is vital.
Zimbabwe 2000 is the next African Nations Cup,and with Qualification for the 2002 World Cup scheduled to begin soon how do you think Namibia will fare?
I think we will do better, much better than before. We have got a little more exposure, not that much and we need our players to go around, to play abroad and to come back with different experience and approachments of the game. That will make us a good side, if you have just one, two or three players that is not enough. The more experience the better. We still have time to do all these kind of things, but we need the players to get the experience and allow us to approach the game from different angles.
Your former team, Eleven Arrows, may return to the Namibian Premier League next season. How involved are you with their Youth Development?
I have been in recent contact with one of the guys from Eleven Arrows and he tells me they are doing quite well. The team is mainly young boys, the oldest in the team is maybe not even twenty-four. The way they are doing now they deserve to be up, I am always in touch with them as they are my former team and I am with them for advice for the future. Hopefully they will do well.
Has the inclement Scottish weather affected your performances in any way?
I am more technical you see, and if the grass is wet and sloppy you can never perform at your best, and I think this affects all the players too. But this is the Scottish weather and it will always be the same so you just have to adapt to it and get used to it. I am playing football here, I want to be here, I must cope with the weather too. You can never use that for an excuse, you must find out a way to cope with it.
How have you found the Scottish game and how difficult was it to adapt to?
The pace and the physicalness, it is a fast game, a very fast game and it is never relaxed. Once you are relaxed and you lose your concentration you are in trouble, all these kind of things I need to learn in a very shot time. Before I used to play very relaxed but that depends on where you are playing for in Scotland you can’t do that, you need to change all your set-up and change the way you play.
Are there any players in the Scottish game who have caught your eye?
The youngsters in the Scottish game have impressed me so much, there are so many I do not even need to mention their names. There are so many at every club, once they take over they will do very well indeed.
Do you think Goalkeepers receive too much protection?
Not actually, I think it is a fair deal that the goalkeeper has the advantage when it comes to a fifty-fifty ball and I think it must be like that otherwise you will end up with a lot of injuries, arguments, that sort of thing.
What do you think could be done to improve the game, for example do you think the off-side rule could be altered or even dropped?
I think that should be left to the experts at FIFA, there are people employed just to look at those aspects of the game and they should decide. I don’t think off-side should be altered, it would not be okay and affect the play. It would be a killers’ game, and that would not be good.
Do you think football is governed too much by television and does it disrupt you greatly to play in days other than a Saturday? For example, next season it is predicted there will be one live match on TV in Scotland each week.
Is Television not bringing in money? Nowadays it is all about money, football is a money sport and you will never be unhappy with something if it is offering you a lot. It is just money which is ruling football today. So whatever the Television decides it is take it or leave it.
Would you have any advice for any up-and-coming footballers?
Especially back home in Namibia we are not taking football that seriously because the income in football, there is not that much which would encourage you to be serious about football. Football back home is not professional, it is not even semi, it is amateur. You need to work to support your family and sometimes only train twice-a-week but you must play on the week-end. I think that we guys who have the opportunity to be here and learn a few things over here I think we can adpot these things and take them back home and pass it over to the youngsters. We must try to put more into football if you want to get something more out of it, the more you put in the greater the reward. So we must encourage the guys and make them realise what football can give you and what it can mean to you. It is not that easy but the ball is in our hands at the moment, if we play the right way then everything will be possible.
And finally, do you have a message for the Motherwell supporters?
They are very loyal to the team. You must be strong and for the next season be behind the club, hope that with the arrival of the new Manager the team will do much better and avoid the struggling position of the years gone by. We have got the ability to be in the top three teams, you see the way we play Celtic and Rangers. It is against the other teams we do not do so well and we must change that, when you see Motherwell play the big two you might even say that Motherwell is the best team in Scotland. It is just a matter of patience; patience wins the race. Be patient, look forward and support the club - it is our own club. We need to go with the club during the up-and-downs, be behind the club always.
Thank you very much indeed, Eliphas.
Thank you, Ricky.
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