The most beautiful team of 2017


Soccer coach Chris Totobela in reporting mode. File photo by Sue Maclennan

Chris Totobela reflects on the New Year’s Cup soccer tournament 2017

Teams came from all over to come and take part in the 2017 edition of the New Year’s cup. There were six local sides taking part as well. Most of the teams seemed well prepared for the tournament while a few were here just to add numbers and seemed not to be aware of the high standard of this competition.

The opening game at Dlepu Stadium did not live up to the expectations of football fans as it was one-sided affair.Our local sides gave a very good account of themselves and out of six, four made it to the last 16 which was taken to PE.

All the four local coaches expressed dissatisfaction with the arrangements, especially the accommodation which they said was tacky, a feeling shared by the Young Chiefs coach who told me that he had to find alternative digs for his team.

Some of the Grahamstown teams were unhappy with their accommodation for their Port Elizabeth matches; with Maru being given mattresses to sleep on in a gym. Photo supplied

Maru and Sophia Stars are the only local teams that made it to the last eight. These games were played at Rhodes and I was very impressed with the performance of both of our teams. They looked hungry for success and played with purpose. Semi final games were brought back to the home of local football and it proved to be a good move by the organisers as Dlepu was packed with fans cheering for their local sides. Unfortunately Sophia Stars failed to capitalise on the number of chances they created against Young Chiefs and went down on penalties after the teams completed open play at 1-1. In the second semi final Maru played a game of their lives to overcome the hard running Amavarara outfit 1-0. This was my best game of the tournament as both teams went toe to toe, firing from all cylinders in an action-packed game.

Once again Maru played direct, effective and result-driven football which is the only way to tackle big tournaments such as this one. They deserve to be Champions again and every Grahamstown citizen should be very proud of them. They represented our town very well and managed to show the immense talent that we have here. Most of the team players and officials I have spoken to have all echoed the same views that despite the condition of the pitch, the atmosphere at Dlepu was electrifying and perfect for good football. The organisers need to be applauded for the great work they put in to host such a big and successful event. Scrapping the gate fees was also a good move. There were some very brilliant individual performances in this tournament and it was just a pity that there were no visible scouts from PSL and first division teams.

There were players who did very well and deserved at least a look at by the scouts. The officiating was good except for the few blunders that were made especially in the Sophia Stars Vs Young Chiefs semi-final. At the end of the day the referees are also human and they make mistakes here and there. But overall they had a good tournament. Tournament CEO Luyanda Papu said he was very pleased with the way things turned out and how the tournament has grown and hopes for a bigger 2018 edition.

We need to congratulate Papu and his crew for a job well-done and give credit where it is due. This is a very big tournament and there will be mistakes along the way but we need to concentrate more on the positives and give them time to reflect and come up with better ways of dealing with some of the things that did not go well. Grahamstown needs this kind of entertainment especially during the festive season and hope that our local teams will also take it very seriously as tournaments of this magnitude do not come around that often. Once again I hope that our local municipality will try and make sure that Dlepu will be in a better condition come December.

I think the most beautiful and touching part of the final day was seeing Newseekers Chairman Bra Mthiga  bringing the trophy to the field in his wheelchair followed. This was the second edition of this tournament and it will really be interesting to see how the hosting of this great event in our town will benefit or assist football development in Grahamstown and surrounding areas; and what value will it add to our own Makana Local Football Association and how will it help improve the standard of the league. It will also be interesting to see how the Community at large  and not just football teams will benefit from this great event.

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