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Between the sticks with legendary goalie Jeff Marting

2023-04-21  Carlos Kambaekwa

Between the sticks with legendary goalie Jeff Marting

They are not famously known or referred to as the last line of defence by pure incident; goalkeepers are often made fun of and brutally taken for granted as just objects that are there to prevent the opposition from scoring goals. However, net guards form an integral part of the beautiful game of football; hence this is the only position that must be occupied at all times. 

Tellingly, whereas proceedings can get underway without any of the other allotted slots necessarily having tenants, the number one position must have an occupant as no football match is permitted by law and rules governing the game to start without the goalkeeper.

As it stands, modern football requires skilful ball-playing goalkeepers capable of initiating play from the back with ball distribution a primary pre-requisite. 

Back in the day at the dawn of mixed-race football in apartheid South West Africa (SWA), a tallish goalie going by the name of Jeff Marting, was by a decent yard way ahead of his peers when it came down to the flawless execution of basics. 

Brave, fearless and confidently dominant in aerial duels, without a shadow of a doubt, Marting was a phenomenal shot-stopper who certainly ticked all the boxes of a complete net guard. The now-retired former Ramblers’ goalkeeper also represented his native land South West Africa in the prestigious South African Inter-Provincial Currie Cup.

The son of a noted local entrepreneur of fruit and vegetable outlet, the young Jeff Marting started playing football at a very young age for the Swakopmund Secondary School. 

Upon completion of his studies, the young acrobatic shot-stopper exchanged the freezing weather of the giant Atlantic Ocean for the city of bright lights (Windhoek). He joined forces with the ambitious Pionierspark outfit Ramblers.  

Aged just 17, and barely out of his pair of shorts, the moustache goalie was drafted into the star-studded Rammies first team, and it did not take long for the rookie net guard to nail his name in the team sheet starting line-up. 

Marting played a pivotal role when the red-hot Rammies, shepherded by player-coach Peter Gurney, made a clean sweep in the 1975 season, winning almost all major trophies on offer in the highly competitive domestic national football league strictly reserved for athletes of Caucasian descent. 

As fate would dictate, local authorities under the stewardship of Advocate Louis Pienaar, bowed down, albeit reluctantly, to tremendous pressure by certain influential political heavyweights in society to sanction the first-ever football match between native Bantus and their white counterparts, in 1975, Marting was duly selected to represent the All-Whites Invitational Eleven.  

The historic exhibition clash of the titans, played in front of a sold-out bumper crowd at the old Suidwes Rugby stadium ended in a controversial 3-all stalemate after the whites were awarded a highly dubious penalty in the dying minutes of an otherwise thrilling encounter where no quarter was asked or given with both teams going full throttle at each other fighting tooth and nail with racial supremacy at stake. 

Admittedly, that historic football bonanza paved the way for the unavoidable amalgamation of mixed-race football in apartheid South West Africa in 1977. With Marting manning the sticks for the Tunschell Street Boys, Ramblers won the inaugural Central Football Association (CFA) League title, edging cross-town rivals African Stars in a closely contested title race.

“It was amazing and tough, but we also experienced some close shaves playing league matches in Katutura. Racial tension often reared its ugly head, I vividly remember our first league match against Tigers in Katutura. 

“The fans were very hostile peppering us with stones after we took an unassailable 3-0 lead before the break. The crowd aggressively disputed Shorty Lohmeier’s well-taken goal, vehemently protesting that the goal was scored from an offside position as a result of their total misinterpretation of the offside rule. 

“Luckily, Tigers players came to our rescue shielding us from any form of potentially serious injuries. We used to gather at the Ramblers clubhouse, climbed into the back of my dad’s fruit delivery truck like a tin of packed sardines for protection,” recalls Marting.   

In 1979, Marting was duly rewarded for his exploits between the sticks with a call-up to the South West Africa (SWA/Namibia) mixed-race team for the prestigious annual South African Inter-Provincial Currie Cup.   

Marting kept a goal in all matches against Eastern Province, Western Province, Border and Natal, in that sequence. At the club level, he enjoyed a remarkable playing career with Rammies and says he still has fond memories of his lodging in Tunschell Strasse. 

“One particular match that will forever be entrenched in my memory is our encounter against Dieter Widman’s mentored African Stars at Okahandja Park in a cup final”. 

On paper, Rammies were the underdogs given the strength of their more fancied opponents, boasting a very strong squad handsomely loaded with highly gifted footies spearheaded by the great Oscar Mengo, Kaputji Kuhanga, Willy Rwida, Immanuel Kamuserandu, Albert Tjihero, Ace Tjirera and other greats.  

“Atatatata…it was end-to-end stuff, Stars had a very good coach in Widmann, who instilled a certain measure of the German style of direct football, and discipline aided by a mixture of African flair. Nonetheless, we kept our cool, defended well and somehow managed to weather the storm courtesy of our rock-solid defence marshalled by the ever-present Gunter Hellinghausen, Bobby Craddock, and Werner Saxy Sasse. 

Hasso Ahrens netted the only goal in that particular match in the second half against the run of play to give Rammies a slender one-goal cushion (1-0). Stars playmaker Mengo became very restless and visibly frustrated as they could simply not get the ball past the resolute Rammies’ last line of defence. 

“It was a tough match Mengo started referring to me as ‘Okambihi’ (The Cat) in his native Otjiherero vernacular. Unbeknown to him, both my teammates Steini (Karl-Heinz Steinfurth) and Puffi (Arno Rah) could speak fluent Otjiherero. They translated what it meant. We held on for dear life emerging victorious (1-0). 

The giant goalie with the safe pair of hands boasts a remarkable pedigree in the domestic football setup, topped by an astonishing jaw-dropping massive tally of clean sheets between the sticks, in addition to keeping the devastating Sparta United forwards at bay in the annual Easter Cup final at the latter’s sports field in Walvis Bay. 

The tie ended goalless after regulation time and had to be decided via the dreaded penalty shootout. Marting was in an uncompromising mood, excellently gathering all three spot kicks unleashed via the misfiring boots of Ronnie Dagnin and the de Gouveia brothers Ivo and Carlos to give the visitors a hard-fought but rather well-deserved 3-0 triumph. 

In his parting shot, Marting says tongue in cheek that he has no regrets about playing football, above all, meeting many people from all walks of life. He still cherishes the amazing times he spent with Ramblers. 

“To be brutally honest, I had great fun and was indeed very privileged and fortunate to be mentored by great coaches in the following order; Peter Gurney, Don Corbett, Hasso Ahrens, and Ian Wood,” Marting also holds his former Ramblers teammates in high esteem.  

2023-04-21  Carlos Kambaekwa

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