Goulburn’s ‘Mara’ Dollie is player-of-the-series

Fuad Esack

Bonteheuwel born and bred, Omar “Mara” Dollie, 24, and his Goulburn Athletic AFC teammates can afford to pat themselves on the back, despite a 1-0 defeat against Hanover Park’s Diadora FC, in last week’s Coke Cup finals, at Athlone Stadium. Regardless of the outcome, the squad certainly lived up to their promise, making it all the way to the finals, much to the delight of their supporters who filled up more than half of the stadium.

Although understandably disappointed, Mara received a well-deserved player-of -the-series award at the post-match presentation, based on his performance through the competition, from the early rounds to the knock-out stages.

Coke Cup senior-player-of-the-series, Goulburn Athletic’s Omar “Mara” Dollie, at the post-match presentation. Picture: Fuad Esack

A natural right wing back, equally comfortable playing at centre back, Dollie, who started out with Goulburn as an under-9 player, returned this season after stints with All Stars and DLPE football clubs.

First to acknowledge his teammates and coaches, Dollie was also quick to pay respect to the club’s loyal band of supporters who turned up in big numbers for last week’s cup final. They were there every step of the way, including their side’s 2-1 win in their semi-final against the better-fancied Hanover Park FC, in Mitchell’s Plain, earlier this month.

Goulburn’s Omar “Mara” Dollie clear’s the ball during last week’s Coke Cup finals against Diadora. Picture: Conray Swail

He said beating Hanover Park FC in the semi-finals was one the highlights of this year’s competition because they are such a good team. And of course, he added, playing the finals at Athlone Stadium for the first time was a good experience for his own journey.

Goulburn Athletic supporters filled up more than half of the stadium for their side’s cup final against Diadora. Picture: Fuad Esack

“The fans were our biggest inspiration,” he said. “They stood by our side throughout the entire year, never losing hope in us. Without them we wouldn’t have made it that far because they are our motivation,” he said.

Goulburn chairman Frank Smith agrees, saying the club’s success is a reflection of what can be achieved despite the odds.

“We have to do with the bare minimum,” he said, when interviewed ahead of last week’s finals. “Sponsors, and even the top soccer clubs seems to turn a blind eye, or look the other way when it comes to Bonteheuwel,” he said.

“We have a team of local young, talented, dedicated and well disciplined players. We believe in empowering, creating and giving opportunity. This is evident in this team’s dedicated and hard-working management team, consisting of Edgar Fortuin, coach Sardick Barends, who is assisted by Toufeeq Dollie. We also have hard-working executive members and other committee members working silently in the background for the club to be successful,” he said.

“The Bonteheuwel community is proud of Goulburn. The club showed everyone that Bonteheuwel have amazing potential, talent, and good sportsmen/women. This is proof that life in Bonteheuwel is not only about the few gangsters and their illegal activities. The community of Bonteheuwel still stands firmly behind Goulburn Athletic AFC and all the others clubs of Metropolitan LFA,” he said.

“Overall, we did well in all the junior and senior divisions for the 2023 soccer season. One of the club’s senior teams, the Premier team, did not lose a single match for this season, and was crowned as the Metropolitan LFA, Premier Division league winners,” he said.

“The Premier team is hard at work, preparing for the local Safa play-offs, for promotion to the Third Division SAB League, starting with their first matches this coming Saturday and Sunday. The aim is to take part in the Third Division next season,” Smith said.

In last week’s cup final, Goulburn restricted their opponents to a shaky 1-0 lead and creating opportunities of their own, right up until the last minute. This speaks volumes of the Goulburn’s determination to lift the trophy, but ultimately it was not to be.

“The game took a bit of a sharp turn after we lost one of our key players,” said Dollie. “It took time to build up the momentum again, in the second half things went better but unfortunately we didn’t get a goal in,” he said.

High fives all round as Goulburn Athletic’s Omar “Mara” Dollie moves through the Diadora guard of honour on his way to collect his player of the series award. Picture: Fuad Esack

Dollie said he was somewhat surprised at hearing his name called out to receive the player of the series award, considering the number of talented players on the squad.

“It was a big surprise for myself, I was shocked that moment, there were lots of emotions I felt during that time because it was so unexpected,“ he said.

fuad.esack@acm.co.za