It’s crunch time in regional club championships

Dangerous Heroes' Charmaine Maneli gains possession with Mathilda Ontong breathing down her neck during her side's 3-1 defeat against Bonteheuwel's Burnley WFC.

It’s down to the business end of this year’s Coke Cup competition as under-18, women and senior men’s squads from across the city gear up for the last round of 16.

A number of knockout fixtures were played in Bonteheuwel, Mitchell’s Plain and Grassy Park.

The winning squads will now join their male counterparts in the last round of 16.

Now in its 20th year, the competition offers a platform for talented amateur players to showcase their skill, says Safa Cape Town’s head of competitions, Bayanda Sikiti.

Over the years, the competition has dished up a number of surprise winners, including the then underdog, Nyanga’s Masidlale Academy’s under-18 side, who surprised everyone by going all the way to win the 2012 edition of the tournament. They went on to play in two more competitions.

If what happened in the early stages of this year’s competition is anything to go by, then the fans might see one or two under-dogs causing an upset.

Sikiti said this year’s competition proved to be the toughest compared to recent years. He noted a number of reasons for this improvement.

“Things were tough straight from the first round of matches this year, as all the teams didn’t take each other for granted. Firstly, there are a number of newer teams who proved to be difficult to beat. In fact, some of them caused upsets along the way too.

“They more established sides, on the other hand, have upped their game to meet the demands of competition. So, yes, the standard, both in women’s and men’s football is higher this year,” he said.

Sikiti said football lovers should expect even more as the number of clubs, in each division has been whittled down to 16. In the under-18 division, for instance, defending champions Masidlale Academy last year’s losing finalists, Bonteheuwel’s Sporting United, are still in the running.

Both sides will have to be on top of their game if they want to reach this year’s final as fellow-favourites, and in form, Milano United are also in with a chance. There are dark horses in the mix, too. The likes of Nyanga LFA’s Everton and Simunye LFA’s Young Pirates can cause an upset on any given day.

Things are equally competitive in the women’s section with defending champions RV United from Mandela Park and fellow favourites Gugulethu’s Cape Town Roses, Spurs Women’s Team and Santos all vying for glory.

In women’s matches played at the Rocklands sportsfields, Greater Philippi’s Dangerous Heroes lost 3-1 to Burnley WFC, Tafelzucht beat Avendale 6-0, Vasca da Gama beat Highbury, 7-0 and Table View beat Islanders 5-2.

And, Sikiti agreed that things are going to be even tougher from here on as the best of this year’s competition will go head to head.

“We should expect anything from now on. We’ve seen a couple of big guns going out in the previous rounds so now we know there’s no small teams here.

“Any team is capable of beating anyone, and no one wants to lose” he said.