By FOCUS REPORTER
THE IMPRESSIVE crowd that greeted the opening match-day of the 2010 Metropolitan SASFA U-16 Cup were treated to a festival of goals as the top school teams from around South Africa began their quest for glory at Gompo Stadium in Duncan Village just outside East London on Wednesday. With a tantalising trip to Brazil to play in the World Schools Championships next year awaiting the winners, a total of 64 goals were scored on an action-packed first day bathed in glorious Eastern Cape sunshine.
Watched closely by respected coach Tebogo Moloi, Metropolitan’s U-16 Cup ambassador, the players gave their all in an effort to put points on the board early on to place themselves in the running for qualification for the knockout rounds, which take place over the coming weekend. Defending champions, Umqhele, from KZN, served notice that they will not surrender their title tamely by beating Mpumalanga’s Mphanama 1-0, followed by a 2-1 win over Thanga, before turning on the style to win 6-0 against Belgravia from the Western Cape later in the day. Other stand-out results saw Free State school HTS Louis Botha triumph 4-0 over Sol Plaatjie Secondary from the Northern Cape, while Rietvale restored some pride for the Western Cape with a 5-1 win over their KZN opponents, Old Mill High, a score line matched by Steinkopf against Belgravia.
“We’re delighted with how the tournament has got under way. The manner in which the local residents have turned out in numbers from the start has completely justified Metropolitan’s decision to bring the event to the Eastern Cape. We encourage even more people to come out and celebrate Heritage Day by watching some high quality football from the stars of the future. The standard on display on the opening day bodes very well for the remainder of the competition and looks to be building towards an exciting climax,” said Metropolitan’s general manager of corporate affairs, Christabell Kota.
Moloi, a former Orlando Pirates star midfielder, added, “The level of play has gone up a level from the provincial play-offs I attended and the competition is fierce. I have already noticed quite a few players who are showing not only good skills but also the ability to handle the situation. It is a credit to Metropolitan that have facilitated the coming together of the best schoolboys in the country to test themselves against their peers and push themselves to greater heights.”
A regular feature of Metropolitan-sponsored football events is a Life-Skills component that serves to equip the young players with some of the attributes required to be successful in life and, following a short respite to shower and dine, the players were given an informative and entertaining interactive Life Skills symposium, conducted by Metropolitan CSI specialist, Rene Sabor. Mr. Sabor elaborated: “With a social programme, it is very important to develop the players beyond football. Many of them have the talent to make significant progress in the football sphere, and with that come demands, rewards, successes and failures. To really be able to call it true development, we recognise that they require a wider range of guidance that will aid them in making the right decisions on the road of life.
“Today’s symposium was HIV and AIDS specific and included a segment on teenage pregnancy. Our research has shown that the incidences of these two scourges continue to afflict our country’s youth in worrying proportions. It is our intention to heighten awareness as to the seriousness of the problem and to furnish them with relevant information that will improve their understanding of the issues and avoid their clutches.”
The youngsters listened attentively before engaging in a remarkably mature open floor session in which a number of intelligent and sensible questions were put forward and discussed.
Friday promises to be a thrilling day as the round robin stage reaches its conclusion, with the eight quarterfinalists being decided, while the remainder are paired to play-off for the minor placings. The two top sides from each of the three groups automatically qualify for the last eight and are joined by the best two third-placed teams to complete the line-up.