Well, many might only come to know Rolf ‘Ertjies’ Erdmannsky as the no-nonsense football referee during the amalgamation of mixed-race football in apartheid South West Africa (SWA) in 1977. But in real life, Uncle ‘Ertjies’ was an energetic midfielder who plied his trade with ambitious Pionierspark outfit Ramblers Football Club in the 1960s.
A dedicated one-club man, the stocky midfielder was the heartbeat of the Ramblers engine-room, always ready for the battle, and more than willing to roll with the punches whenever the situation demanded.
‘Ertjies’ played a blinder when Rammies clinched the annual Hansa Pokal in Swakopmund in 1967. The Tunschel Street boys were on fire the same year, claiming the coveted national league title, in addition to the Gorges, Tuckmantel, H. de Meyer and Otavi Pokals.
However, ‘Ertjies’ only rose to prominence when he effortlessly officiated as match referee in the historic exhibition match between the South West Africa Blacks Eleven and the SWA All-Whites at the packed-to-the-rafters Suidwes Stadium in 1976.
Admittedly, that particular match paved the way for the unavoidable introduction of multiracial football in apartheid South West Africa the following year. The electrifying clash of the titans saw the Whites clinch a hard-fought 2-1 victory from a goal apiece via the deadly boots of Paul Carsten and German import the late Wolfgang Fleishhammel’s well-taken strikes.
Second-half substitute Edwarth ‘Boy-Boy’ Ndjadila, then a pupil at the revered Augustineum Secondary School, pulled a goal back for the All Blacks, while Oscar Mengo had a spot- kick well-gathered by the giant Vic Lovell.
Truth be told, the beautiful game of football has transformed the lives of many people, and ultimately changed their perceptions about racial discrimination and segregation in apartheid South West Africa. People like ‘Ertjies’ should be applauded for having played a behind-the-scenes instrumental role in uniting a broken nation through football.
Uncle ‘Ertjies’ anchored a strong group of well-equipped match referees in the new dispensation, alongside other high-profile whistlemen like Dave Bruny, Vic Lovell, Arnulf Schmidt aka ‘Smitty’, Martin Kehrmann and the ‘notorious’ ‘Hanging Judge’, Eberhard Sacha.
Upon retirement, the stocky midfielder, a salted auto-electric technician, ran his own electrical workshop Airite Auto Electric, located in Tal Street, central Windhoek, before shifting his attention to the more lucrative business of fixing and selling canopies in the Southern Industrial area. He was the sole owner of Canopy Centre.
Uncle ‘Ertjies’ was hitched to childhood sweetheart Hannelore, who pre-deceased him two years ago. May her precious soul continue to rest in eternal peace. She bore him a trio of beautiful daughters Heike, Anke and Silke Pennyfather.
The equally talented siblings took it upon their tiny shoulders to emulate their old man’s feats, and became accomplished hockey players. Both Anke and Silke played club hockey for their childhood team Ramblers, and have also represented their motherland Namibia with great aplomb on numerous occasions at multi-sport gatherings internationally.
Sport certainly runs rapidly in the genes of the Erdmannsky’s. The couple is the proud grandparents of four grandchildren, all phenomenal athletes excelling in both the field and inline hockey disciplines. Younger sister Silke captained the Namibian senior women’s hockey team on numerous occasions, whilst elder sister Heike was the mastermind behind the introduction of Inline Hockey in the northern town of Otjiwarongo.
Anke skippered the National Softball team to complete Erdmannsky’s remarkable and valuable legacy in the annals of Namibian sport. In addition, Silke’s other half, Luke Pennyfather, is a retired, noted hockey player and former coach.
Well, there is an old saying that home is always home. Uncle ‘Ertjies’ silently retreated to his birthplace Swakopmund upon retirement, where he happily spent his final days on earth in the cool comfort of the freezing and mind-blowing weather of the giant Atlantic Ocean.
One of his old buddies, Hasso Ahrens, former Windhoek City, Ramblers and SKW forward and professional footy with leading South African outfit Hellenic Football Club, describes the departed football icon as a trusted, dedicated man who always wore a smile on his face, no matter the weather conditions. ‘Very sad indeed... Ertjies was a great guy, very friendly and helpful. He gave his all on the football field, and was a no-nonsense, stocky defensive midfielder who took no prisoners. May his soul rest in eternal peace.