Namibia: Former Benfica Great Enjoys Retirement in Tsumeb

Namibia had its own share of exceptional football headers and former Benfica midfield star Mandume Licky Gideon was one of them.

Born at Okakua village in the Ohangwena region, the robust midfield kingpin was separated from his twin brother and was sent to live with his aunt at Tsumeb when he was only seven months old.

He started playing football in the dusty streets of the Soweto section of Nomtsoub township, before he joined Black Shadows in the mid-70s, a team comprising youngsters from his neighbourhood. He then moved to the new location where he played for the Rickets.

He was a member of Opawa Primary School soccer team with childhood friends Shimanya Kankunja, David Crockett Hangula and Shapange She-Pele Nehemia, and was also an acclaimed long distance runner.

"The Rickets disbanded in 1978 and the modern day Benfica was born, which me and most of my teammates joined. I was one of the two youngest players in the Benfica squad, with Reynhold Ronny Matias.

"I was only 15 at the time but my talent warranted me a place in Benfica's first team. Our team lacked the technical and tactical aspect of the game, due to a lack of exposure and experienced players," Gideon points out.

Before long Benfica developed into a formidable side which could hold its own against the likes of cross town rivals Chief Santos, who were the top team at Tsumeb at the time and Goal Hunters from Grootfontein, which was later renamed Chelsea.

Players like Sakkie Zocks Hailonga, Ellis Cuba Sem, Jakes Mbandi, Gabes Hangula and Phillip Nyanya Shilongo started benefiting immensely from the coaching of the seasoned Boetie Louw and his younger brother Hannes Louw.

Gideon, became the standout player for Benfica and his exceptional technical ability saw him becoming one of the most sought after midfielders in the country.

Even the pre-independence national team selectors took notice of the gangly Benfica captain and his superb showing during the regional league, and called him up.

"My biggest moment in football came in 1982 when I was selected alongside the Chelsea trio Anton Orlando Damaseb, Eric Richo Francis and the late Daniel Pieces Damaseb for the national team to participate in the provincial Currie Cup in Durban, South Africa.

"We were representing the Far Northern League. We were a very strong team and we made a very good account of ourselves in Durban although we lost to a powerful South African Defence team in the semi-final," Gideon recounts.

His selection to the national team also attracted interest from Windhoek teams and very soon the free-scoring midfielder found himself with Katutura giants Tigers and relocated to the capital for one full season.

He found himself in the company of captain fantastic Mentos Hipondoka, sharpshooter Steve Haihambo, the dynamic Pule Uri-khob with whom he forged a formidable midfield partnership, his Tsumeb home boy the acrobatic goalkeeper, George Pandike Ochurub and the midfield hard-man, Hofni Gray Uumati.

However, his love for his Benfica drove him back to Tsumeb to share the experiences he picked during his time with the national team and Tigers with teammates back home.

"In Windhoek things were completely different from what I was used to back home at Tsumeb. At Benfica we did not have a lot of players with sound technical ability but what they lacked in skills they complimented with sheer determination and physical power.

"We were probably one of the fittest teams in the then Namibian National Super League at the time and we also had one of the toughest defences as well. We were very fit and we could outrun most of our opponents," he says.

It was not long before Benfica won the Metropolitan Cup competition in 1986 to become the first team from outside Windhoek to win a major national tournament after they saw off cup kings Black Africa in front of a shocked Windhoek Stadium.

"That was my proudest football moment. Black Africa had a very strong team and they were feared in cup competitions but we had plans for them. We decided not to allow them to play their normal free-flowing game.

"We marked their star players out of the game. The instructions were not to allow the likes of David Fellah Snewe, Lucky Bazooka Richter, the late Bernhard Kae Kapa Kae Diocothle and the masterful Rusten Sukhile Mogane enough time on the ball.

"We marked them very tightly and tackled them real hard. I think they were intimidated a little bit from our physicality. Their player (Diocotlhe) unfortunately broke a leg during the match and that must have been a very huge setback for them," he says.

Gideon has retired from the game and he is enjoying a quiet life with his childhood sweetheart Nangula Gideon who he married in 1984.

The couple have five children with Sakkie and Nathan Gideon following in their famous father's footsteps become top soccer players.

Sakkie was a star defender for Benfica while Nathan, who played for Unam FC, was an integral part of coach Ricardo Mannetti's Brave Warriors team before he was forced into retirement by job commitments.

Gideon was until recently employed by Indo Atlantic (also known as CIC Namibia) as a sales representative since 1979.

CIC is Namibia's largest grocery agency and Indo Atlantic is one of their five sales divisions.

"I first started as a merchandiser. I was tasked to display products for sale in the retail stores, in a creative way that would attract customers. But I was later moved to a sales representative until my retirement recently.

He was responsible for Otjiwarongo, Okakarara, Outjo, Khorixas, Kamanjab, Usakos, Swakopmund and, of course, Tsumeb.

"The work was very challenging in the sense that I had to travel a lot. I have been away from home very often and the long distances I used to travel started to take their toll. It also meant a lot of lonely nights in guest houses.

"But that enabled me to put bread on the table. I have enjoyed my journey of four decades with Indo Atlantic. I have also come to meet and know a lot of people through my job," he enthused.

Gideon previously worked at the Namibian Breweries depot at Tsumeb while he also had a short spell with the Shell Oil Company.

He says now that he has more time for his family and himself, he is going to focus on his farm along the Tsintsabis-Tsumeb road, where he is rearing goats and cattle.

Gideon said he played his best matches against cross-town rivals Santos because of the rivalry between two of Tsumeb's biggest clubs.

"It was a war when we faced Santos for very obvious reasons because we played for pride and the bragging rights. Santos was not a team you could be complacent with. You had to concentrate and remain focussed 100%.

"I was expected to motivate my teammates by constantly talking to them and I had to lead by example by putting up a sterling performance. It was just unfortunate that their goalie on the day (David Gaeseb) had to deal with my long range missiles," he enthused.

He mentioned former club chairperson Issy Kahungi and president Eino Hauwanga as the people who had the biggest influences on his career and says he misses the tough training sessions and packed football stadiums, especially the Independence Stadium.

Gideon advises young players to be focused on their game: "Refrain from alcohol and strive to improve your game. Commit yourself to reach the top of your game. You have to set yourself goals otherwise you are playing without any ambition," he says.

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