This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Engen under-18 Knockout Challenge and, for the first time since 2019 spectators will be allowed on the field.
Having been first hosted in 2003, this year’s event, which kicks off at Langa Stadium tomorrow Friday July 8, will be hosted by Langa’s Wanderers FC for the third year in a row. It has previously been hosted by Santos and Vasco da Gama.
This year, 16 boys sides and eight girls teams will battle it out over three days. In the boys section, two-time defending champions Ubuntu Academy, will lock horns with Grassy Park United, Bayhill United and Cape Town Spurs in Group B, a group that has already been dubbed “group of death”.
UBuntu were the winners when Wanders hosted the tournament for the first time, in 2019. They were by far the best side in that event, with their then captain Munashe Garananga winning defender and player of the tournament after his side beat newcomers Cape Town City in the final. The event didn’t take place in 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent lock downs. It was back last year and UBuntu showed, again, that the 2019 was no fluke, winning the tournament again. They went on to represent the region in the national champs of champs in Johannesburg. They did well there, going all the way to the final before going down to Jomo Cosmos. Their players Tony Mbunga and Kyle Bailey were named defender and midfielder of the tournament respectively. So, there is no doubt that the side from Fish Hoek will be a team to beat this year.
Hosts Wanderers are in Group A, alongside Hellenic, Hanover Park and Barca Juniors. This promises to be another exciting group to look out for, considering the quality of the teams.
Group C sees Cape Town City taking on Rebels FC, Vasco da Gama and Table View. Group D will see Stellenbosch FC, Ulana Academy, Milano United and FN Rangers taking on each other.
In the girls’ section, defending champions RV United are in Group A, alongside Mighty City, Falcons and Cape Town Roses. RV United, like UBuntu went on to represent the region at the nationals, where Unathi Simayile was named defender of the tournament.Spurs WFC, Invincible Cravenby, and Dangerous Heroes will battle it out in Group B.
Tournament director and Wanderers FC chairman Eric Gum noted that it’s all systems go and everyone was ready for an exciting tournament. Gum said the club and the LFA were ready to produce one of the best knockout challenge tournaments to date. Healso noted that organising a tournament of this nature came with a number of challenges. He said organising the play-offs was, logistically, the most difficult part of the whole process.
“But, thanks to other LFAs, who made their fields available, we got through that,” he said.