Greenwood does it for Niyaaz and community

Greenwood Athletic AFC celebrate a goal during the Bayhill under-19 Premier Cup’s Bruyns Plate section final. They won 2-1 over Jomos Powers. Picture: Conray Swail

When Greenwood Athletic AFC stepped into the Bayhill under-19 Premier Cup’s Bruyns Plate final, against Jomo’s Powers, it was an emotional event, in dedication of the late Niyaaz Patterson.

Patterson was a part of Greenwood’s Bayhill Cup qualifying squad before his life was cut short when the 18-year-old player was fatally wounded in a shooting in Lavender Hill in February. When the team celebrated, some of the players and supporters had T-hirts with his image, and after their 2-1 win in the Plate section final, they cried tears of joy.

Greenwood’s team manager, Raymond Brickles, said the final was in commemoration of the young fellow.

“Although not physically with us and able to fly down that right-wing as he was known for, he will definitely be with us in spirit today, as he has been for the past few days. This one is for you Niyaaz,” said Brickles in a Facebook post.

Thousands came out in their numbers to witness some of the country’s finest young players showcase their talent, at Erica Park in Belhar, and at the FIFA World Cup renowned Athlone Stadium on the final day.

The tournament is well known for producing some of the country’s finest talents, including Manchester United’s technical coach, Benni McCarthy, Kaizer Chiefs’ Keagan Dolly and Aris Limassol’s Mihlali Mayambela.

At least 32 teams took part, including CAF Champions League champions Mamelodi Sundowns, Premier Soccer League giants SuperSport United, University of Pretoria (Tuks), Stellenbosch FC, Cape Town City and Highlands Park.

Grassy Park won the main section 2-1 over Cape Town Spurs. Hosts, Bayhill United AFC, won the mid-section 7-6 on penalties following a scoreless draw against Highlands Park.

On paper, Cape Town Spurs were the favourites to win the final, with the majority of their players representing national teams. However, during the game, Grassy Park United displayed calm under pressure and heart from the jump, scoring two successful goals in the opening half.

In the second half, coach Andrew Herman’s Spurs’ came out guns blazing. They controlled possession and were awarded with a goal. It was, however, not enough to catch up to Grassy Park’s defensive scoreline.

Herman said, despite the results, he remains positive about the football and character displayed by his team on and off the field.

“We enjoyed every moment of it, it has just been a blast. Watching our boys from the sideline, displaying who they are, the type of players that they are, the type of football that they have, behind the scenes and what we put in – we admired everything they have done,” he said.

Cape Town Spurs captain, Siviwe Nkwali, said they played as a team to inspire each other and their communities in these tough times.

“For the kids from Kuyasa in Khayelitsha, it is not too hard, we just have to work hard, do what is right, don’t get influenced by friends and do what you love. For the supporters, we are grateful, next time we will be here again and we will do better,” said Nkwali.

The main referee of the Roger Clayton final, Msimelelo Mabutho, acknowledged the character the young lads displayed from day one right until day six of the tournament.

“It was a very exciting final. Very challenging. The officials had to be up for the game because we didn’t want the players to defeat each other. They defeated the game because of us, so it was a good experience,” he said.

Two weeks ago, at the Gareth Ncaca Foundation’s under-20 tournament in Langa, Grassy Park United’s coach, Rezaan Jacobs, said his team were “preparing to win the Bayhill”.

“We have made it all the way to the final. I said two weeks ago we will come here and win the final. I would like to thank the management team and the boys for the hard work. A massive thank you to the supporters; they came out in numbers. Everything came together and we managed to become champions,” said an elated Jacobs.

Team manager, Alaric Jacobs, said Grassy Park struggled in the opening games, with two draws and a win in the group stages. In the knockout stages, they began to play a champion’s game.

“It is unbelievable, no one gave us a chance. Our first two games we struggled but we just built and built from there. Tough game today but we scored early and that helped us to settle, took the pressure, played as a team and that is why we could win today.”

Jacobs gave local associations a thumbs up for preparing their development sides to stand their ground against some of the best teams on the continent.

“You know we are an amateur team that was able to win this. There were PSL teams and other big teams here, so it was great for our amateur league. We did this for our team, our Grassy Park and all our communities in the area – this was for them,” he said.