TASHIA Frieda Kalondo is a woman with a fascinating hockey history. Apart from the fact that she was first called up to play for the junior women’s national team at the tender age of 13, she also played hockey in South Africa before she played for the senior Namibian women’s team.
Says Kalondo: “I began high school in 1999 and I remember getting a phone call at boarding school in South Africa that I got selected to represent the national women’s team. I was so elated, I screamed and went on like a fishwife.
“But then my father called later to say I couldn’t go because I’d miss too much school time and, more importantly, I was only 13 years old. I think I cried for a month straight. I received my second call-up in 2003, but I was schooling in South Africa at that point.”
She was born and bred at Oranjemund, which, as the name implies, is at the mouth of the Orange River, which she describes as “a fascinating little place”.
Kalondo, who already demonstrated an aptitude in athletics, softball and swimming at that point, claims that hockey came fairly naturally after she was introduced to the sport by her childhood best friend, Richard Morrow, who was nothing short of obsessed with the game. Before she got to represent Namibia, she represented both Boland and Western Province in various age groups in inter-provincial tournaments due to the fact that she attended high school in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
“Having been exposed to top-class competition because of the competitive nature of South African players, I was ready-made for the bigger stage of representing my country in the bigger regional as well as continental competitions.
“I wasn’t nearly as nervous when I played my first international test, but I felt an immense sense of pride wearing the Namibian colours for the first time. I’m not sure how many international caps I have under my belt,” she said.
The former centre forward striker, started playing for the Unam hockey team when she moved to Windhoek in 2004 after she matriculated from high school in Stellenbosch and got introduced by a family member to their coach Erwin Handura, who recruited her.
Kalondo would, however, leave Unam to play for the Olympia-based DTS.
“I was really blown away by the manner in which DTS pursued me. They made me feel respected and recognised as one of the best players in what was known as the Premier League at the time. DTS was a very dominant force at the time and I enjoyed most of my success on the hockey field with them,” she explains.
The multiple league winner with both Unam and DTS hockey teams, was first called up by the Namibian national under-21 team that competed at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.
In 2005, she was part of the senior women’s team that represented Namibia at the Africa Cup of Nations at the Pretoria Technikon, also in South Africa, while in 2007, she was selected for the Africa Olympic Qualifiers in Nairobi, Kenya.
Kalondo, who wants to be remembered as the prolific, agile, speedy and skilful goal-scoring striker that she was, brought back home bronze medals with both the u21 side and the senior women’s team after finishing a credible third in both Africa Cup of Nations events.
A proud winner of a player of the match gong at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in 2005, the retired hockey star was a multi-faceted sportsperson who, besides being a sprinter, also did other sports like softball, swimming, target shooting and horse riding.
Describing her role in the team as that of scoring as many goals as possible, she takes pride in having record double hat-tricks, while she also doubled as the team clown, a role she took far too seriously. She always enjoyed uplifting spirits and making people laugh.
A normal day for Kalondo, who quit playing hockey at the young age of 24 due to suspected burnout, starts by checking her emails, messages and making phone calls to organise her day.
“I’ve always been a jack of all trades and would love to be a pantologist if that were a real profession and if I had the brain capacity for it. I mean, imagine having a systematic view of all branches of human knowledge… wouldn’t that be marvellous?
“I digress, I work mostly as a consultant in the marketing, business development and project management space in the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and South Africa, or wherever. In short, I am a digital nomad,” she describes her career.
She claims that coming from a background as a hockey player and even though she carved out a life for herself in a rather non-conventional way, she has transitioned well into the business space and she has a beautiful, intelligent and funny, talkative 13-year-old son named Sheya, who surprisingly does not even play hockey.
She admits that it is very difficult to balance what she is doing at the moment with her role as a mother because she travels extensively, adding that her son is in a phenomenal boarding school, has his awesome dad and she has the most incredible family and support system.
She says the Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on many people in one way or another, while she spent most of her time during the peak of the pandemic abroad, bouncing back and forth between London, Dubai, New York, Singapore and Johannesburg.
“I found it soothing to travel, explore and work. Then I got tired of living out of a suitcase and it wasn’t so soothing any more, so I came home,” she said.
“I am legitimately living my life like it’s golden. I thank God for the amazing life I live every day, and I thank Him twice on Sunday. I am so incredibly blessed and grateful.”
Kalondo says this is exactly the way she imagined her life after her hockey playing days, noting that she always knew she was going to live a fabulous life.
“I never thought I’d stop playing hockey at such a young age. I suspect burnout played a role, but I am still in touch with a lot of my former teammates – Maggy Mengo and Jerrica Cormack are great friends of mine to this day.”
Coming to the people who have had the biggest influence on her hockey career, she says she was low-key obsessed with Greg Nicol and Pietie Coetzee growing up, while Siyabonga Martin plays the most beautiful hockey she ever saw. She reveals that she does a lot of fundraising consultancy work for several national teams, including the Namibia Hockey Union, and she is even thinking of making a comeback because she misses the game of hockey a lot.
She says some of the biggest things she misses from her days as a player are the unlikely friendships she made with people who she would most likely not have connected with and being part of a team, especially after winning a match and knowing they all contributed to it.
“I miss that team spirit and camaraderie terribly,” she said.
“Innate skill and endless practice will only get you so far. There are a plethora of key factors: choose your clubs carefully, leave the booze, stay on top of your fitness game, find a high performance centre, aim for IPT, be fearless and shameless in your pursuit for glory and even though it’s so cliché, it really is the most important – have fun,” she advises young players.