But the broken windows and not being good enough were obviously not a sign of a lack of talent, as both have made the journey from playing football in the garden in Windhoek to professional football in Germany. Sandra, who has represented Germany at youth level, plays in the Bundesliga for Freiburg, while Namibian international Manfred is on the books of Hansa Rostock, who currently play in the third division.
Asked who won the one-on-one matches, Manfred laughs. “Well, as the older brother, you obviously have to let the younger sister win at times,” he says, without conceding that he actually lost deliberately.
An abrupt end to the garden games
Their game-playing days came to an abrupt end when Sandra was around 10, as Manfred went to Germany for trials. “I was with Union Berlin, and they were keen to keep me, but they did not have hostel facilities, so I went back to Namibia. A short while later, I went again. This time to Hansa Rostock and they offer me a place in their hostel and I mostly have been with them since then.”
Now 23, Manfred admits that his footballing road has not always been easy. “I was only 13 when I came to Germany to stay. My parents and Sandra were back at home in Windhoek, and I had to adapt to a new country and make new friends. But even if there were times I was so homesick that I cried, I never had the urge to give up on my dream of playing professional football.”
He says that even though his father was heavily involved in football and coached in Namibia at the highest level, he was never pressured to go play in Europe. “It was my choice to go and my choice to stay. I think my parents would have even preferred me to stay in Namibia, but they wanted to give me the opportunity of achieving my goals.”
After two years of being in Germany, Manfred's life took a turn for the better as Sandra also moved overseas to pursue her footballing dream. “I was accepted into Turbine Potsdam's footballing academy, and then we could more often phone each other and also managed to meet as Potsdam and Rostock are not that far apart,” the 21-year-old says.
Following each other
Although Sandra, who is considered one of the top talents in Germany, now plays in Freiburg – several hundred kilometres away from Rostock – Manfred still takes an active interest in her progress. “We call each other about once a week and I always look at her scores. I think she is a great footballer and if she continues developing as she has, she faces a great future.”
Unlike Manfred, who opted to play for Namibia, Sandra last year turned down the opportunity to play for the country of her birth at the CAF Women's Championship, which the southern African country hosted. “At the time, I had too many club commitments and had just started my studies, so the timing was wrong,” Sandra explains.
“I think that was a wise choice, as she could well get a chance to chose between playing for Germany or Namibia. Like other decisions, if that time comes, it will be something that we speak about. Not only with each other, but with our parents as well, but in the end it will be her choice,” adds Manfred.
Sandra, who like her brother is studying through a correspondence university and has recently signed a lengthy contract extension with Freiburg, takes as much interest in her brother's career as he does in hers. “This season has not been easy for him. He has struggled with injuries and that has kept him out of the team. But I hope that he will still get a few games this season.
“Growing up with a football-playing brother helped me grow to love the sport and after playing in mixed teams as a child I realised that I would love to play professional football. I am grateful that I have had that opportunity and sharing it with my brother makes it even more special.”