The coastal town of Walvis Bay mourns the death and at the same time celebrates the life journey of an unheralded football legend, noted business mogul, Dieter Steinmetz, generally known as “Steini”.
The latter was a mean left winger with coastal outfit Atlantis Football Club and also represented his motherland South West Africa (SWA) with distinction at provincial level. “Steini” exited the game of life on Sunday after a Covid-19 related short illness aged 78, and was laid to rest in his adopted town Walvis Bay on Tuesday this week. May his soul rest easy. New Era Sport delves into the untold astonishing life journey of the departed football icon, who also cut his teeth in Germany’s lower tier leagues.
Born in the northern town of Otjiwarongo on the 27th of February 1942, “Steini” grew up on a livestock breeding farm near the Etosha national game park. He started his primary schooling in Swakopmund and worked in Walvis Bay upon completion of his studies.
In 1966, he went to Germany to further his academic aspirations in hydraulics engineering, where he befriended John Kraatz in Frankfurt.
While in Germany, the owner of the Ober-Erlenbach Fussball Klub, who had a sharp eye for talent identification, spotted the strongly built boy from South West Africa and asked him to join the lower tier club.
The club is still active and ranks amongst the most progressive teams in the highly competitive Bundesliga. Upon completion of his studies, “Steini” returned to his native land and rejoined Atlantis FC.
In 1973, he started his own company known as Hydroweld in the harbour town of Walvis Bay and roped in his two sons, Robert and Heiko as co-workers.
A left-footed athlete blessed with deft touches on the ball, “Steini” started his football career at a very young age, operating from the left flank. He would go on to rub shoulders with highly gifted footballers mentioned hereunder:
Immo Stephens, Ernie Kleinschmidt, Bryan Stafford, Hans Lohmeir, Harald Dennewill, D Hartenberger, A Viljoen, B Lackey, N Thiel, R Andres, H Klein and a few others. In 1964, an invitational team from Germany known as Eintracht Frankfurt arrived in South West Africa (SWA), nowadays Namibia, for a couple of exhibition matches against local teams.
The visitors also came up against the strong All Whites Coastal Invitational Eleven team comprising of footballers from Swakopmund and Walvis Bay (SFC, Sparta and Atlantis).
As a result of the then racial discriminatory apartheid policies, the world football governing body Fifa would not sanction any form of football matches to be played in racist South Africa and sister country South West Africa.
However, football authorities in the country managed to wangle their way around the ban, using underhand methods that enticed the Jerries to hit the skies over the Mediterranean Ocean to SWA. “Steini” registered his name on the score sheet.
In 1976, “Steini” was selected for the star-studded coastal eleven against the visiting semi-professional outfit Windhoek City FC.
Sadly, Atlantis were inactive the following season and the club folded, obliging the football-crazy “Steini” to seek pastures green elsewhere. He found refuge with Kuisebmond outfit Eleven Arrows, campaigning in the Western division one league.
At Arrows, he played alongside Pius Serogwe, Blue Karimbue, Connie Samaria, Lefa Kaifanwa, Joel Ngariongombe, Lazarus Shikwambi, Bra Jesus Tayob, John Savage, Killa Samaria, Alphons Madisia, Mini Nawatiseb, Bossie Samaria, Jack Brown (team manager) with the late Ben Tembo as head coach.
After a brief stint with the maroon and gold strip outfit, the prodigal son was back in familiar territory with his beloved Atlantis FC. Sadly, he suffered a career-threatening injury when he damaged his fibula in an exhibition match against the visiting African Stars in 1977.
However, “Steini” managed to weather the storm and was given a well-deserved standing ovation in his official final match against the visiting Cape Town City at the Atlantis field in 1979. Nonetheless, “Steini” was not entirely lost to football as he turned his attention to indoor football between 2000 and 2003.
He was a regular figure in the popular Coastal Social Football League in Walvis Bay, playing alongside other retired greats, spearheaded by Tony Mansinho, Ivo de Gouveia, Tony Fernandes, Sandro de Gouveia, Sheya Mwelasi, Alex Kirox and Osvaldo dos Santos. The football-crazy “Steini” was also heavily instrumental in setting up youth football development programmes catering for the under 14-20 age groups. What made “Steini’s” adrenaline always charging in high mode was the “green field battle of blood and sweat” where giants competed against each other and a trophy in hand that symbolised glorious victory.
Besides playing football, “Steini” was a humble giant, a diligent, straightforward caring person towards his family, business, mostly football and his beloved Atlantis Sport Club.
He possessed great skills, leadership ability second to none on and off the field while his heart was always open to reach out to his needy community and every person that needed assistance in a very generous manner and gentle spirit.
“Steini” was a dedicated football fanatic and his all-time favourite team was serial Bundesliga champions Fußball-Club Bayern München-Germany. In the interim, he would travel afar to be present at the Fifa World Cup tournaments in various countries to watch live matches and attended many World Cup events staged around the globe.
Upon retirement, “Steini” was bestowed with the plum portfolio of Honorary President of Atlantis Sport Club. He was without an iota of doubt the backbone and pillar of the Atlantis Sports Club Foundation.
His vision is a true reflection of Atlantis Sport Club’s existence and continuality, an entity that saw him invest a lot of his energy and financially, especially in the football section. His loud voice and huge frame could not be missed whenever Atlantis got in action. The untimely passing of “Steini” is without a shadow of doubt a dark chapter in the history of domestic football. His unmatched contribution towards Atlantis Sport Club was immense. Namibian football and New Era Sport salutes “Steini” for the enormous effort and unbelievable achievements attained in a life that has sadly ended prematurely. Mach’s Gut Herr Steinmetz.......you might be gone to be reunited with your ancestors but your legacy will remain intact.
In the meantime, Pionierspark outfit Ramblers Sport Club also weighed in with condolences to the departed football icon. “I will never forget his farewell match against the visiting Cape Town City where I had the distinct honour of appearing in one of the curtain raisers as a young boy,” reads a statement verbatim from the chairperson of Ramblers Sport Club, Harald Hecht. “Atlantis and Namibian football in general has lost a true football icon. Up to this day, there is a strong bond between Atlantis and Ramblers, fostered over many years where ‘Steini’ played a pivotal role.
“The late ‘Steini’ was a bona fide member of the Ramblers Supporters Club and took serious interest in the success of the club’s youth teams under the watch of Ramblers Youth Football Academy. “His untimely departure has sent shockwaves through the close-knit family of Tunschell-Strasse. The Executive and members salute you with a thunderous Rammie....Rammie....Ramblers,” concludes the strong message of condolence.