Namibian sport has in the past produced a significant number of high-profile athletes, manufactured in all sorts of different packages, notably in the football discipline. One such athlete was none other than the late former Rocco Swallows Football Club giant shot stopper, Adolf Mannetti, better known as ‘Cross’ in social circles.
The bulky net guard was a man of many talents and will be best remembered for his brave penalty save against the visiting Etosha Lions at the jam-packed old Katutura stadium in 1969. ‘Cross’ stylishly gathered Percy ‘Chippa’ Moloi’s potential match-winning spot kick. The big frame gloves man guessed right to stop Moloi’s weakly taken penalty in a well attended exhibition match, featuring his club Rocco Swallows and the visiting Etosha Lions from Tsumeb.
History reveals that exciting Katutura outfit Rocco Swallows and Jungle Boys amalgamated to form Ramblers Football Club, to be known as Ramblers Katutura (Ramkat) in later years.
The name Ramblers clashed with that of their then perceived superior white counterparts, and had to be adjusted a bit to separate them from the Pionierspark outfit.
Word has it that the merger was necessitated by Swallows’ apparent unquenchable desire to lure Jungle Boys’ dribbling wizard, one Petrus //Nerab Gariseb, aka #Noas, to their nest.
Back in the day, footballers were very loyal towards their respective clubs and would not jump ship to join rival clubs.
This practice obliged the determined Swallows’ management to strike a deal with the gold and blue strip outfit to forsake their status and make way for the unavoidable birth of Ramblers Football Club.
The newly-wed clubs adopted the gold colour from Jungle Boys and the maroon strip of Swallows.
Needless to note that //Nerab went on to become the darling of the club’s followers, mesmerizing robust defenders with his amazing dribbling skills.
The stocky left-footed ball juggler was without an iota of doubt by far the club’s most outstanding squad member.
The Black Panther would go on to form a telepathic partnership with the equally dangerous Sigab Williams, Andries Bekeur, Maxueb Engelbrecht and Steve Gariseb. And while unfashionable Jungle Boys were just an average mid-table team, Swallows proved to be a formidable side.
It came as no surprise when the maroon and white strip outfit were amongst the few selected opponents to represent the Central region when the Chippa Moloi-inspired Etosha Lions descended on the capital for a few exhibition matches.
The match against the exciting Sigab Williams-inspired Rocco Swallows proved to be the centre of attraction with all eyes fixed on the South African dribbling wizard Chippa Moloi.
It was end-to-end stuff with Moloi at the heart of most of the Lions’ attacks, but the boys from the capital city were not to be outdone by the star-studded Lions outfit and stood their ground.
Apart from Moloi, the visitors had greats such as Amos ‘Nangi Watch’ Nickel, Engelhardt ‘Larney’ Gariseb and young Steps Nickel in their firing line.
However, the cherry on top of the cake in an otherwise entertaining clash of the titans was when giant stop stopper Cross Mannetti stepped up to gather Moloi’s decisive spot kick in the dying minutes to deny the much-fancied Copper Town lads victory.
That particular penalty save would go a long way in installing Cross as an instant hero amongst the locals. He was rightly worshipped by many, including rival fans.
That historical match and Chippa Moloi’s silky skills in particular would go down in the history of domestic football as the game that unearthed the birth of Chief Santos. In addition, dozens of aspiring footballers went on to to adopt the nickname ‘Chippa’ or ‘Moloi’ after the legendary former Orlando Pirates (SA) playmaker.
Apart from his involvement in football, the big frame Cross, uncle of Brave Warriors’ much adored title-winning coach Ricardo Mannetti, was a popular social street wrestler as well.
Upon retiring from competitive football, the easy-going humorous bro Cross would always be seen entertaining crowds at football matches engaging in social wrestling. And guess what? Cross’ preferred opponent was none other than longtime buddy, the late Ambrose Simon.
The latter was also a former footballer who cut his teeth with Tigers Football Club. The latter was the only known football supporter who changed allegiance from Black Africa to rivals Orlando Pirates.
The pair would entertain the crowd during the halftime break or after fulltime, wrestling each other full throttle, rolling in the thick sand like there’s no tomorrow, much to the delight of onlookers.
At times, they would not even wait for halftime when their blood was boiling and obviously had one too many, especially if a football match was a bit boring.
The pair would roll up their sleeves and hit down the worn-out wooden steps of the old Katutura stadium’s substandard grandstand.
In no time, shirts were unbuttoned and the show was in full swing with no referee to oversee proceedings or apply rules. And by the time the two teams merged, Cross was getting a bit long in the tooth. Sadly, the adorable big frame shot stopper took a bow from the game of life at the fairly young age of 39 in 1982. May his soul continue to rest in peace.
Nonetheless, the shot stopper has certainly left a long lasting mark in domestic football and will go down in history as the man who flamboyantly saved Chippa Moloi’s penalty kick. As fate would dictate, Ramblers’ fairytale run came to an abrupt end when the team suffered relegation in 1982.
The club never managed to recover and eventually went the way of the dinosaur after a 21-0 thrashing at the hands of Hungry Lions at the Windhoek Show Grounds in 1983.
To make matters worse, a hopelessly disorganised Ramkat side arrived at the stadium in drabs with only eight players and were made to pay a heavy price by the rampant ‘Lions of Judah’.
As it turned out, that particular match signalled the end of Rammies’ further interest in the beautiful game of football.
Despite the devastating ending, Ramkat produced great footballers such as Andries Bekeur, Japhet Isaacs, Gotty Geiseb, Doc Naobeb, Alphews Gaweseb, Tururob Gariseb, #Noaeb ‘Horongo’ Engelbrecht, //Nerab Gariseb, Izaak ‘Izallo’ Boois, Maxueb Engelbrecht and Steve Gariseb.