Full steam ahead for under-19 tourney

LOC members PJ Williams, Desiree Ellis and councillor JP Smith cheer on some of the team captains at the launch of the tournament in Rylands last week.

The draw for the Bayhill under-19 Premier Cup has come and gone, and the the 32 teams that qualified are ready to get to the field and fight for top honours.

Kewtown’s Avendale Athletico and Manenberg’s D&GOrient FC will compete in Group D and Group Group G respectively, while 2015 champions Glendene United will battle it out in Group F.

Avendale is pitted alongside Cape Town City, Amazulu and Fish Hoek, while Orient will lock horns with Zambian side Zesco United, Bloemfontein Celtic and Atlantic Nacional. Glendene will fight it out with Mamelodi Sundowns who replaced Kaizer Chiefs, Mitchell’s Plain’s Liverpool Portland and Witbank Spurs FC.

Being the last Cape Town side to lift the trophy, Glendene will go to this year’s event as one of the favourites.

However, last year’s competition will remind them that the favourites tag doesn’t necessarily translate to good form on the field. They will, of course, try to put that year’s disappointment – when they lost 2-0 against Atlantic Nacional in the last 16 – behind them.

They were convincing in the qualifiers, too. The Lansdowne-based side topped their qualifying group, which also had Parow’s Vasco da Gama, Stellenbosch’s Maties FC and Salt River Blackpool, with seven points after winning two and drawing one of their three matches.

Coach Mangaliso “Shakes” Ntombana’s side have shown that they have the talent and the attitude necessary to emulate the class of 2015’s success.

Ntombana made it clear after they qualified for the tournament, in February, that they wanted to go all the way this time around.

“We’ve been building the team for some time now so I hope the boys will lose in the final, or even win it, this year,” he said at the time. He also noted that part of their secret was the fact that they loan most of their players to ABC Motsepe side Crystal Palace, so that they could gain valuable experience.

At the time of going to print on Monday, it was still not clear whether the tournament would continue at Erica Park in Belhar or move to another venue, due to the poor conditions of the field. Staying in Belhar or not, the competition’s media liaison officer, Roger Clayton made it clear that the tournament – in its 29th year – will continue as usual.

Clayton said the competition has grown in leaps and bounds since their first year when it soon attracted teams from outside the province – first Eastern Cape’s Park United – and as far as the United Kingdom, with Manchester United School being the first.

Another important thing about this year’s tournament is the fact that, for the first time in many years, it will go without a title sponsor.

Clayton, however, was quick to note that Metropolitan’s departure would not have a negative impact on the competition.

“We have an experienced organising team that has been doing this for years. The guys know exactly how to run the competition with or without a major sponsor,” he said.

He also noted that the current organising committee, which is made up of highly experienced football administrators, would continue doing the job for many years to come.

This, he said, was because any youngster who finds themselves joining the organising team will have to understand the history and the complexities that are involved in the running of the competition.