Born John Petrus Kaimu in Namibia’s commercial capital Windhoek in 1971, Mannetjie’s genes dictated that he would be a footballer of note one day. After all, his uncle, Pastor Seth Kaimu, was a vital cog in the African Stars outfit in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
As if this was not enough, his cousin Lawrence ‘Nunuu’ Kaimu, was an imposing attacking midfielder, who played competitive football at provincial level during his time at the University of North West in neighbouring South Africa.
Growing up in the same neigbourhood as former African Stars icon Oscar Mengo – better known as the ‘Silver Fox’ – Mannetjie was fascinated by the midfielder’s style of play and vowed to follow in the footsteps of his boyhood hero.
“He (Mengo) actually paved the way for us as youngsters to play football in organised structures. He bought us playing gear when we formed our first football club, which we christened after him, Mengo Chiefs FC,” Mannetjie says with a heavy heart.
The team consisted of a bunch of aspiring young footballers, mostly from the Long Tale neighbourhood (old Herero location), with the likes of Noag Tjatindi, Erwin Upi and Harry Muharukua among the founder members.
A go-getter, Mannetie developed itchy feet and eventually jumped ship to join forces with Young Hungry, a feeder team for Katutura outfit Hungry Lions FC. In the meantime, Mannetjie found himself in Cattle Country, where he furthered his schooling at Dromiopsis Secondary School, near Gobabis.
Here, he continued playing football for the school first team under the astute stewardship of well-known schoolteacher-cum-politician-turned-traditional leader Kilus Nguvauva.
It was only fitting that the skillful young defender would also turn out for the local side Kilus Eleven, while the football crazy boy also featured for Epako outfit, Maroon Brothers. His football talent did not escape the eyes of talent scouts and he would on occasion be bussed in from the east to feature for Nau-Aib outfit Young Stars (Okahandja) during the popular, but unofficial knock-out tournaments.
His maturation as a footballer coincided with the onset of Namibia’s democracy in the early 90’s – around the same time that African Stars’ golden era came full circle. The Reds were in a rebuilding process, with a new generation of young footballers entering the fray en masse, seeking to resurrect the ailing fortunes of the Katutura giants as a significant chunk of the old guard had gotten a bit long in the tooth.
In 1992 it was time to step up a gear and rewrite a new chapter in his blossoming football career. African Stars was his next destination.
Surprisingly, Mannetjie walked straight into the Reds’ starting lineup – replacing the ageing and out of favour, Bobby Tjiho.
Some of his teammates were Bernard Neuman, Nico Hindjou, Gruzi Goseb, Collin Katitja Usurua, Boas Tjingaete, and Zico Tjazerua. He was to form a telepathic partnership in the uncompromising Stars’ rearguard, alongside Nico Hindjou, Phillip Gairiseb, Vemuna Hoveka and Boas Tjingaete, as the backbone of the team’s solid defense.
The football-obsessed fullback made his club debut in the Castle Classic knockout tourney, where he crowned a near faultless display with a well-deserved gold medal as the Reds came through unscathed.
“I vividly remember that memorable day when we came up against our traditional bitter rivals Black Africa in the final. The match ended goalless and a replay was ordered, but we emerged victors (1-0) through Seven Endjala’s lone strike at the Independence Stadium in Windhoek”.
A dead-ball specialist, Mannetjie was blessed with vision second to none, and an amazing first touch, and was a great passer of the ball, while his incomparable calmness under pressure earned him the respect and adoration of teammates, opposition and football followers across the spectrum.
He also featured in Stars’ historic win over the visiting Angolan team in the CAF Club Championships Cup in Windhoek, after having missed the first leg away in Angola.
Ironically, Mannetjie sent shockwaves amongst the Reds’ diehards when he disappeared from the game at the tender age of 25, while still at the pinnacle of his flourishing football career – only to resurface in the popular but unofficial rural tournaments, featuring for his village team, Otjimanangombe FC.
“To be quite honest, I never really took football seriously, I just played the game for sheer fun to while time away and socialise with others. For some strange reason, I lost appetite for the game and resolved to quit and concentrate on playing social football with my village team”.
Though he was unexpectedly lost to competitive football, Mannetjie still cherishes his battles against Katutura rivals Black Africa and has fond memories of some of the great players he rubbed shoulders with.
“I was extremely fortunate, because I have played with some of the finest footballers this country has ever produced – the likes of Domingo Martin and Wagga Goagoseb were in a class of their own”.
Unlike many of his peers, who fell on hard times upon retirement from the beautiful game, Mannetjie, aged 44, is a self-employed electrician today, specialising in fixing home appliances, radios, TVs and even faulty vehicles.