Site C’s Mighty United FC was one of the biggest winners in the last round of this year’s Metropolitan under-19 Premier Cup qualifiers, pulling out all the stops to book their place in the tournament for the fist time ever, after a second attempt.
Last year, they made their debut in the play-offs but lack of experience got the better of them as they were unable to go beyond the early stages of the qualifiers. To their credit, they were able to gather as many lessons from that experience as possible, went back to the drawing board and figured out ways to improve their game come 2015.
And, in this year’s qualifiers, they proved to be more experienced and wiser as they were able to get themselves out of tight situations. The players played with a lot of flair and confidence as they seemed to be comfortable on the ball. That proved to be what separated them from most of their opponents.
They were able to keep the ball firmly on the ground and defended as a unit whenever the other team was on the ball.
No one could have ever thought the Lingelethu LFA-affiliated side would come out of the last round of qualifiers “alive”, as they found the found themselves in Group G among some of the tournament’s favourites in last year’s runners up JL Zwane, 2014 quarter finalists Santos as well as Avendale Athletico and Kensington. This was, of course, one of the toughest groups in the qualifier.
But to many critics’ surprise, United didn’t just qualify the tournament proper. They did that in style, topping the group with eight points after winning two, drawing one and losing one of their four matches. That was one point ahead of fellow qualifiers and second-placed Avendale Athletico. In doing so, the two sides proved to be true giant killers as they made sure the more fancied Santos and JL Zwane didn’t qualify for this year’s edition.
Although they topped their group, United’s journey was not as easy as it might have looked on paper. They had to deal with the fact that they were in one of the two groups which had five teams and that meant they were among the teams that had to play one extra game.
That, in the end, didn’t affect their plan as they were able to qualify with one match to play.
United kicked off their campaign with a 1-all draw against Kensington before pulling out one of the biggest surprises of the qualifiers when they beat last year’s runners up JL Zwane 1-0 in their second match. And, just when everyone thought the Site C side were on track to qualify for their first ever premier cup tournament, Santos stopped them on their tracks, winning 1-0. That defeat, however, was not going to derail them as they bounced back to beat Avendale Athletico 1-0 to book their place in Belhar.
Coach Simphiwe Siqenqe said qualifying for the tournament was a big deal to them especially the players who will have a chance to play against the country’s best under-19 players.
“This is our second attempt at qualifying for the tournament and I guess the experience we gained last year proved to be valuable this time around. We came up against some very strong teams and were able to beat them, some in their own back yards,” he said.
“The last round of qualifiers was not easy either, as no one gave us a chance against Zwane and Santos. I guess the underdog tag worked for us as we went there and played football the way we knew it. We worked really hard and the more matches we played the better we became,” he added.
Siqenqe said they had to remind the players that they had come a long way and losing right there – in the last round of qualifiers – was not an option.
“We hard to fight and being in a tough group was motivation enough. Some of the players we came up against play in the ABC Motsepe League, which meant the boys were seriously tested and came up tops,” said Siqenqe.
Siqenqe said the experience also provided them with an opportunity to identify their own weaknesses. And, they did have weaknesses. Defensively, they looked solid as they conceded only two goals in their last four qualifiers. The side’s finishing, however, raised some serious questions as they seemed to miss a lot of chances in front of goal. Siqenqe admitted that scoring goals was one of their weaknesses.
“Yes, the goal-scoring problem needs to be fixed and that is why we will fix the goal-scoring problem. We will also bring in a natural left back as that position was played by a winger throughout the play-offs. And, lastly, our goalkeeping department also needs a back up, which we will look into between now and the start of the tournament,” he said.
He said they wanted to go there and learn as much as possible. This, he said, didn’t mean they were going there just to add numbers; they also want to make a name for themselves.
“The players are excited, motivated and ready to play. This is a dream come true for them as it is their opportunity to shine and opportunities like this do not come often,” said Siqenqe
Formed in Site C back in 1999, Mighty United is known in Khayelitsha for producing Ayanda Patosi, who went on to play for the now-defunct ASD Cape Town and Belgium’s Loreken before eventually donning the Bafana Bafana jersey.
Siqenqe said the club’s aim is to produce quality players who go all the way and make names for themselves at the highest level.
“One of our players Akhona Gononda, for instance, recently went to Belgium for trials. We also have about three players at Ajax Cape Town and that’s what we are about, producing quality players.
In other action, Project Playground (PPG) Langa qualified for their second successive premier cup after finishing second in Group E ahead of highly-fancied Morgenster form Mitchell’s Plain and Fish Hoek. The group was won by Greenwood Athletic, who qualified alongside the Langa outfit. Langa finished with four points after winning one, drawing one and losing one of their three matches.
Going to the tournament proper, the Langa side will look to rediscover the form that not only saw them becoming one of the biggest winners in last year’s qualifiers, as they caught almost everyone by surprise with their sleek brand of football. They went on to out-do themselves in the tournament proper, qualifying for the knockout stages at the expense of favourites and then defending champions Ajax Cape Town. They left Belhar with the giant killers’ tag around their necks and few more admirers behind them.
However coach Mabhuti Ncaca was quick to note that there is still a lot to be done in the build up to the premier cup.
“We try and play our own brand of football, which has word of us so far. That, however, doesn’t mean we have to be ignorant of the other things that around us. We will have to adopt each time the situation forces us to. Last year was our first appearance in the competition and the players learnt a great deal. Of course, we have lost a lot of players, which meant we had to build from scratch going to this year’s competition. The good thing is that they were able to adapt to the way we do things, and that was encouraging to see,” he said.