Walvis Bay businessman Johnny Doeseb, or “JJ” as he is called by his friends, took over Eleven Arrows before the start of the new season and now has big plans to take it to the top, not only in Namibia, but also in Africa. The self-made millionaire, who is still only 33 years old, acquired more than 10 new players for the new season as well as a new coach by offering them decent salaries, with a wage bill alone running to about N$80 000 per month. Besides that he has also constructed a Player’s Village in Kuisebmond in excess of N$300 000 with state of the art facilities to keep his players relaxed and focussed on their job.
Namibia Sport spoke to Doeseb about his past, his business and love for soccer and his plans for the future.
Tell us about your childhood.
I’m the eldest of four children and was raised by my mom after my father passed away when I was four years old. I finished my school career at Colin Foundation in Arandis in 1996. I worked for Rossing for eight years where I moved up in the ranks and became a senior loss control advisor.
In 2002 I resigned and started my own company. I started in the construction business and later expanded to other areas. Now I have JJD Holdings which includes several subsidiary companies like JJD Properties, JJD Mining, JJD Information Centre and JJD Contractors.
Why did you become involved in soccer?
Soccer is my passion. I was a player myself and when I talk of soccer I get that warm feeling inside me. I was born and bred in Omaruru and started playing in the dusty streets of Omaruru.
In those days we had players that we looked up to like Doc Naomab who played for Pirates, Tommy Adams of Black Africa and Gerros Urikhob of Chief Santos. But where are they today? You cannot single out a player who has made a success through football and say that he is today a successful businessman. But at least now we have former footballers who are ploughing back into the community like Hendrik Dawids of Orlando Pirates or Bonni Paulino of Black Africa to mention but a few.
Why did you take over Eleven Arrows?
The reason why I got involved with Arrows is that it is a non-racial team. Many of the other teams you can link to a certain tribe, but when you look at Arrows you will see Hereros, Damaras, Owambos, coloureds and so on, so it’s a combination of different tribes. For me Eleven Arrows represents the diversity of Namibia. I wanted to get involved in a team that reflects that diversity and Arrows is that team.
I was on the verge of taking over Black Africa because I’ve been a fan of BA since my childhood. I can say I’m a diehard BA supporter – my blood is red and my skin is black. I had negotiations with Kandas Paulino, but what made me change my mind is the fact that my business is based in the Erongo region and it would be unethical for me to invest in BA which is Windhoek-based. For me to start out fresh, putting in structures and getting trustworthy people is not an easy thing. When it comes to soccer it’s a business that must be hands-on.
Eleven Arrows must be run on sound business principles and I must have a hands-on approach and know what’s going on. If I lose that then I will lose big time and now that we are trying to go professional in soccer, the business must be run in a professional way. I must get involved and there must be structures in place.
How did you become the owner of Eleven Arrows?
Eleven Arrows was run by an executive committee and was a community team or a ‘people’s team’ when I got involved. It was the old traditional way of running teams, but soccer needs to be commercialised, otherwise it will not be viable.
I told the board I have an idea and want to commercialise Eleven Arrows so that we can make Eleven Arrows a brand, like Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa for example.
I said if there are other people who are interested to become shareholders we can divide shares and everyone can have a stake in it, as long as the vision and the goals are the same. Because the end result is that it must be a brand on its own and it must be a self-sustainable brand.
The executive committee approved my idea of taking over as the sole owner for 10 years and after that period we will review what we have achieved according to a scorecard that we drew up. We also opened up a trust account for Eleven Arrows in which we deposited money. In the unlikely event that I pass away today, Eleven Arrows will have funds to continue.
I took over Eleven Arrows with all the debts that they had, so that was my contribution and now I am running the club on my own.
How much have you invested into the club?
Up to now it has cost me a lot because soccer was in recess and I had to keep the momentum going. The players were in camp and they needed to be paid as well.
Currently Arrows’ wage bill per month is running between N$75 000 and 80 000 per month.
That’s just the wage bill for the players and the technical staff – the running costs amount to about 115 000 per month.
It’s a big investment that I’m making. I’m optimistic that things will change for the better and that’s why I’m not in a rush to find a sponsor. I’m also in talks with some potential sponsors, but what I’m saying is let’s approach it open minded and it must be a win-win situation. Eleven Arrows alone is a brand worth value. There are marketing rights and brand rights that will come. Those are some of the things that need to be sorted out before we can put pen to paper.
There are five potential sponsors I’m talking to at this point in time which are non-conflicting sponsors to the current league sponsor MTC.
Tell us about the new players and technical team that you have assembled.
When I took over the team last season I said there would be a total transformation of our team including the way we do things, from the administrative front to the playing field.
On the administrative front we appointed a fulltime administrator and a fulltime coach. Ronnie Kanalelo was first the technical director but then he left for Black Africa with my blessing. We discussed the issue and parted amicably because the relationship counts for me. We then appointed Gilbert Rwasoka of African Stars as the new coach.
I said at that time, if I want to judge myself I need to transform the whole team. In transforming the team you need to look at your strengths and weaknesses and our weaknesses were identified in conjunction with the technical team. With the involvement of the technical team, the scouting process started and that’s how we scouted the players. We addressed all the areas that needed strengthening and now the only areas that we are still looking at are an attacking midfielder and a defensive midfielder.
We brought in the Katupose brothers, Muna and Tara and Sebastian Matende from Zimbabwe. We strengthened the strike force with Donovan Swartz from BA and Edward Damaseb from Mighty Gunners. We strengthened the right wing because Charlie Aoseb needs some assistance especially during injuries so we brought in David Anton from Mighty Gunners. On the other side we have Gella Kandjimi from Black Africa because we need to strengthen that.
In defence we brought in Bobby Kaapama from SKW and in goals we brought in Charles Uirab from Blue Waters and Virgil Vries from Fedics, because we were too inconsistent in this department.
Tell us about the Village that you have constructed for your players.
To assemble players from all walks of life in Namibia, you need to have proper facilities in place. So what I did is I bought erven in Kuisebmund on which I have erected houses for the players.
In total we can accommodate 18 players with separate camping facilities, showers and everything they need. We have appointed a man that is taking care of the players, cooking three meals per day and that facility has cost me N$320 000 up to date.
I believe that if you want to be professional, then your approach to doing things must be professional. I cannot bring in players from as far afield as Opuwo and tell them they must go and live in shacks. The facility you provide must be conducive for the player so that he can perform better.
The facilities will be equipped with Playstation games in every room. Either they will have PlayStation games or they can listen to music. They will have state of the art facilities.
What goals have you set to achieve with Eleven Arrows?
I am not a narrow-minded person. My vision is that Eleven Arrows becomes a brand to be reckoned with. I want people to say they want to be associated with Eleven Arrows, not because its owned by Johnny Doeseb, but because of the way things are done. I want Eleven Arrows to be the brand to be remembered.
My ultimate goal is to win the league this season and next season I want to take part in the Champions League. That’s my ultimate goal and I firstly want to reach the semifinals, because I need to benchmark myself against the best in Africa.
I am happy with our current squad but when the window period opens we will strengthen the squad with two or three more players.
I am happy with the coach. With all the help and resources that he has, he can only deliver. The record that he has speaks for itself and he is very open minded and a visionary – he knows what he wants. So far he has done wonders in this short space of time with the team, in terms of preparation and in terms of the players’ reaction and discipline, you could see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and there is a positive response.
He’s got my total support, but at the end of the day, if things do not go well everybody will say the coach is the one to get fired. But my philosophy is not about firing. If I have to fire someone Ill first fire the player before the coach.