Any local baller who had the rare opportunity to play alongside or shared a dressing room with greats Sagaria ‘Selle’ Auchumeb, Engelhard ‘Larney’ Gariseb, Hendrik ‘Doc’ Hardley, Eliphas Sabatha, Frans Archie Ochurub, Atanasius ‘Steps’ Nickel, Benzil Khodiseb, Moses ‘Croocks’ Casper, Hannes Louw and Stanislus Kapapi Ochurub must definitely be worth his salt. One such athlete is none other than former Chief Santos sharpshooting left winger Bonifatius Mannetjie Neidel. The strongly built left-footed forward led the Nomtsoub outfit’s firing line for many seasons, overseeing several generations at his boyhood club.
New Era Sport caught up with the now-retired likeable slippery winger as he relives his long and winding football journey with his beloved Santos.
A born and bred product of the Copper Town of Tsumeb, the light-skinned winger started playing competitive football during his student days in Khorixas in the dry Kunene region in the early 70s.
Neidel was amongst a large group of new enthusiastic students who descended en masse on the semi desert north-west settlement (Khorixas) to further their academic aspirations at the Welwitschia Vocational Centre.
Back in the day, recreational activities and access to social gatherings was a scares commodity amongst the systematically marginalised indigenous inhabitants of the Land of the Brave.
Despite these setbacks, the football-crazy Neidel did not despair and gallantly teamed up with fellow students to form a new football team just to while away time during weekends.
The new team was christened Rush Bosho before the name changed to Robber Chanties Football Club. Some of his celebrated teammates were Bonnie Kruger, Barnabas ‘BB’ Ouseb, Levy Nanae #Guiseb, Paul Habeb, Ulrich Naibab, Rango Taurob, Sacharias Madawa //Gowaseb and Samson //Awaseb, amongst others.
Back in his hometown, the beautiful game of football was taking a new twist with Nomtsoub outfit Etosha Lions taking the lead under shrewd football administrator Herbert Conradie.
The wide-awake beanpole guru shipped in South African football legend Percy Chippa Moloi to take players through the ropes as the Lions of the North were preparing for an envisaged historical tour across the border to neighbouring Angola for a series of exhibition matches against local clubs in the Portuguese speaking country.
Moloi’s brief stint with the Lions of the North was like manna sent from heaven. Chippa identified young raw talent and gradually introduced youngsters to the mix of things. Although still wet behind the ears, young Neidel became a beneficiary of Moloi’s sharp eye for unearthing untapped talent, and as they say, the rest is history.
The young left-winger would go on to form an integral part of the newly formed Chief Santos side, successor to the disbanded Etosha Lions.
Neidel was the mainstay of Santos’ firing line alongside the equally dangerous Selle Auchumeb, Doc Hardley, Croocks Capser, and Pele Damaseb, firing on all cylinders.
Santos was the team to beat and were a menace to many visiting teams, notably at their fortress – the compact gravel field in their habitat Nomtsoub location.
Their opponents dreaded being pitted against the hosts, notably in the hotly-contested popular Easter Tournament, then known as the Top 16 knockout cup competition that attracted the crème de la crème of domestic football to fight it out for provincial supremacy.
With many of the club’s stalwarts leaving the club for greener pastures elsewhere, it was left to young Neidel to carry the torch alongside the evergreen Auchumeb. A rare gem and crowd favourite, Neidel was certainly not the fastest of wingers, but the tricky big frame flanker packed dynamite in his left foot.
He was a clinical finisher in front of goal with an amazing brilliant first touch. In addition to his riches of soothing football talent, Neidel could unexpectedly unleash ferocious shots from long range, sending many goalkeepers catching flies.
He was a menace to many defenders and fullbacks and even the hard-as-nails former African Stars overlapping fullback George Gariseb always had his hands full, trying to neutralise the tireless marauding winger.
A club legend par excellence, Neidel will go down in history as one of the most trusted long-serving servants of Chief Santos for his unselfish contribution and service towards the overall growth of the institution, famously known as Chief Santos Football Club.
Regrettably, Neidel could not help Santos when the Nomtsoub outfit narrowly lost to Katutura giant killers Hungry Lions in the final of the Chairman’s Trophy inaugural edition at the compact SKW stadium in 1985. Young, hot striker Justice Basson netted the only goal of the match (1-0).
And even though he was starting to get a bit long in the tooth, Neidel did not despair. The serial net rattler stayed put, patiently nurturing the gradual integration of talented youngsters into the fold. He played an instrumental role when Santos reached their first major cup final in as many years, only for the Copper Town lads to be sent packing (4-0) by the rampant Joseph Martin’s inspired Ramblers side at the old Katutura stadium the same year.
It was back to the drawing board for the club and Neidel’s match-winning goals propelled Santos to their unavoidable promotion to the newly-formed breakaway National Super Soccer League (NSSL) in 1986... exactly four years before Namibia finally attained her long-awaited independence from the apartheid South African regime’s illegal occupation.
However, independence came slightly too late for the Santos goal machine and dozens of his celebrated teammates from the Santos golden generation to taste the beauty and feel of international football.
Nevertheless, Neidel will go down in history as one of the finest talents and most lethal left-footed ballers to have ever come out of that neck of the woods; certainly an amazing football journey well travelled. Neidel is the biological father of local beauty socialite Reney Neidel-Gaeses.