The modern game has evolved so much that strikers are finding it difficult to score goals and defenders becoming very careful at the back. They are becoming smarter by the day and no longer conceding penalties, but a free-kick just outside the box can be as good as a penalty for a team with a specialist free-kick executor.
The prolific and talented Robert Nauseb, popularly known as Baggio in Namibia, is slowly becoming to Kaizer Chiefs what David Beckham is to English champions Manchester United with free-kicks.
But the Namibian international concedes taking free-kicks is not an easy task.
Nevertheless, this is his new trade and he is prepared to work harder to master this craft. He spends extra 15 minutes after training to sharpen his skill.
“I never thought that one day I could be a free-kick specialist,” he says. “But one day the coach called me and asked why I was no longer taking free-kicks. He said I had the potential and that with time I would become perfect.”
It is Nauseb’s goals and dazzling runs on the right flank, which have made him a household name with the peace-loving Amakhosi followers.
Nauseb has netted four times this season and he says he will always cherish all those goals. But the one goal which rates above them all is the magnificent free-kick he scored against Classic at the Johannesburg Stadium on January 30.
“I saw the keeper ornanising his wall but then he did not cover his place well and I just picked my spot and I was elated to see the ball in the back of the net. It’s great to beat the keeper from the free-kick but it is also disappointing if you do not hit the target.
“I get disappointed when I do not score from the spot but then on the positive side it gives me the courage to do even better next time,” he says.
Nauseb reveals that there are two people who play an important role in his football career. They are both active players and distinctive midfielders – Man United’s Beckham and Namibian counterpart Razundura Tjikuzu who plays for German outfit Werder Bremen.
“Razundura is Namibia’s free-kick specialist and I think we have both learned a lot from each other. He plays in Germany and I am here in South Africa with a formidable club. When we meet during national team camps he always tell me to pick my spot and be patient when executing a free-kick,” says Nauseb.
Nauseb became a Red Devils fan during the reign of Eric Cantona and he says in Beckham he is learning something new with each game.
“I recently bought a book by David Beckham which basically tells you all the tricks about free-kicks. It’s a great book and very educational. Learning is a process that never ends. Every day we learn new things and that is important for the modern game.”
The Amakhosi and Namibian right-back says he is also learning to become a utility player. “During Namibia’s last four games our regular left-back was not around and the coach asked me to fill that role and he was impressed afterwards,” he says.
Nauseb, who was born in Otjiwarongo, Namibia, made his Kaizer Chiefs debut in August 1998 against Bloemfontein Celtic at the Free State Stadium and has since established himself as a household name in South African football.
Former Chiefs great, the legend Pule “Ace” Ntsoelengoe described Baggio as a natural fighter before his signing in 1998.
“The boy interested Chiefs right from Namibia’s opening match in the 1998 African Nations Cup finals in Burkina Faso. He is a quality player with exceptional attacking skills and sound defensive ability.
“Even more, he is a natural fighter. And you have to be a fighter if you want to survive at Chiefs. I think his versatility will help him a lot. But, of course there is still some polishing to do before he can command a regular place in the team. There are a lot of quality players and competition is always tough to break into the first team,” Ntsoelengoe told the Namibian.
At the time Nauseb was the third Namibian to sign for Amakhosi after Herman ‘Pele’ Blaschke and Pius ‘Garrincha’ Eigowab. Blaschke,a right-wing and striker Eigowab, played for Chiefs during the 1970s.
Both players set high standards and made a good impression about Namibians and Nauseb knows it would not be easy to match that standard. Blaschke and Eigowab went on to play for South American side Atlanta Chiefs alongside Amakhosi managing director Kaizer “Chincha” Motaung.
“Yes, I was very young during the era of Blaschke and Eigowab but you never forget your heroes. I read a lot about then and in a away they made an impact in my football career,” says Nauseb.
“He was to us what Mr Motaung was to the South African football community. A great role model and an inspiration to a lot of aspiring young footballers.”
But Nauseb also has his success story in his young developing career. His impressive run caught the eyes of foreign clubs more than once. Before joining Amakhosi, Nauseb went for trials in Turkey but it was Chiefs who interested him most. He was recently invited to trials with Sunderland where he spent a week but nothing concrete has been finalised.
“The atmosphere was great and the commitment and dedication amongst the players was just incredible,” he says.
Nauseb says he is aware of the challenges lying ahead in the championship race. “The strikers are struggling to score goals and maybe that is due to the improvement in defences. This is another reason I need to sharpen my shooting skills as that could come handy when a need arises.”
“First I want to master the art of taking the free-kicks and help Chiefs to a league championship and who knows, I might end up with a good overseas contract. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy every moment here and playing for Chiefs is the greatest honour,” he says.
If he is not reading Nauseb spends time with Namibian compatriot Mohammed Ouseb.