City win under-18 knockout challenge

Cape Town City captain Aphelele Motolwana
Cape Town City players in celebratory mood after winning this year’s Engen under-19 Knockout Challenge

Cape Town City FC are the new Engen under-18 knockout champions.

After losing in the final of last year’s edition against Ubuntu Academy, the side, coached by Byron Cottle and Mark Mayambela made sure they were not going to be denied victory this time around.

They came to this year’s tournament with one mission… to win it. They did exactly that, with Cottle winning the coach of the tournament award.

Their hunger was there for everyone to see, from the word go, especially in the players’ body language.

They kicked their campaign off with a goalless draw against Rebels. They went on to record another 1-0 win over Table View before beating Vasco da Gama 2-0 to go through to the knockout stages.

They beat FN Rangers 2-0 in the quarters to set a semi-final date with Ubuntu Academy, the same Ubuntu who beat them in last year’s final. It was payback time, and payback they got, beating the Fish Hoek side, to book their spot in the final against Stellenbosch.

City were even more ruthless in the final, beating an equally talented Stellenbosch side 4-0 to lift the trophy. They’ve also earned the right to represent the region in the national champs of champs, later this year.

Mayambela almost couldn’t believe what he witnessed in that final.

“Even though we prepared thoroughly for this tournament, I didn’t really expect such a scoreline. We expected more from Stellies,” he said after the match.

Abongwe Tshaka opened the scoring for the Citizens in the early stages of the first half. Five minutes later their captain Aphelele Motolwana doubled their lead.

That goal threw the floodgates wide open as the side from the winelands struggled to stage a comeback. They lost their shape in the process, opening more spaces for City to exploit.

The Citizens were now attacking in waves and soon got a penalty, which was converted by Unathi Radebe. They went on to score their fourth goal late in the second half to seal the game. It was all over and Stellies were well beaten.

Captain Motolwana said losing in the final of last year’s edition inspired him personally and some of his teammates who were part of that team to go all the way this time around.

“Losing in the final last year was heartbreaking. We wanted to correct that. We had a plan and we implemented it. We wanted it badly and every game was special to all of us, from the coaches to us players.”

Mayambela concurred, saying it has been a good tournament for them, especially considering that they didn’t concede a single goal the whole tournament.

“The boys stuck to the game plan and that was important. We started slowly but grew in confidence as the tournament progressed. The quality of the opposition was good and this is a good platform for the boys. So, it was good to see the players enjoying themselves. It’s great for the growth of football,” he said.

One of the players that should be credited for City not conceding a single goal this year is, of course, their goalkeeper Jabulile Moketsi. He kept six clean sheets in six matches.The young goal-minder saved everything that came his way. His teammates, especially the defence, played their part too, of course.

“I can’t explain the feeling. Winning the tournament was great, keeping clean sheets in all the games was even more special. It was a real team effort.”

Meanwhile, Cape Town Spurs finished third after beating defending champions Ubuntu Academy on penalties, following a goalless draw. Spurs also looked good throughout the tournament, playing convincing football, until they lost in the semis against Stellenbosch.

Their captain Siviwe Nkwali, a Khayelitsha youngster who’s also a Grade 11 pupil at Mondale High School in Mitchell’s Plain, was named defender of the tournament.

He said, because of their experience and the work they put through, he was convinced they would go all the way and win it.

“It’s a big deal for us, especially coming from disadvantaged communities. We always want to do well. We knew it was going to be tough but we gave it our all.”

Nkwali, who has been with the Ikamva based side from the under-11 age group, said each and everyone of them knew what was expected of them.

“I’ve been here since I was a child. I’ve learnt a lot, especially when it comes to discipline. I started off as a striker but our coaches felt I was more of a defender. So, that was not a big deal for me, as long as I am able to adapt to any situation. So, it’s all about taking instructions and being humble. That’s why we accept defeat and give credit where it’s due,” said the former Mobz Academy player.

His coach Masibulele Sukaze feels that, with all the opportunities they created on the field of play, they deserved to go all the way.

“We knew from the beginning that this was a three-day tournament, and it was going to demand a lot from the players. We came here as Bayhill under-19 Premier Cup champions so a lot was expected. We found ourselves in the group of death alongside Bayhill United, defending champions Ubuntu Academy and Grassy Park United. So, the plan was to do well on the first day, which we did. Basically we did well in the group stages, and the team looked good. Losing on penalties in the semifinals is indeed a bitter pill to swallow but, having said that, the players did their best,” he said.