LEADING global car manufacturer Kia is giving South African amateur five-a-side football players a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent Kia South Africa in international competition at the 2012 Kia Champ into the Arena tournament to be staged in Warsaw, Poland on June 27.
The Kia Champ into the Arena global finals will be played during the 2012 European Championships (Euro 2012), which are being co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine. The winning side from the South African leg will not only be afforded the opportunity to represent Kia SA team, but also take in the glitz and the glamour of a Euro 2012 semi-final match in Warsaw.
Five-a-side football, also known as Futsal, is a growing phenomenon in South Africa and there are popular amateur leagues in all the major centres around the country.
Kia partnered with Andre Arendse, former BafanaBafana Goalkeeper in promoting this well sought after initiative. Arendse says five-a-side football plays a role in developing the skills of players that can help enhance their game.
“The shorter passes, quick feet and need to think quickly with an opponent always close to you is a great way to hone your skills for the full version of Association Football. The pace of the game is also extremely high and tests the fitness of those who play,” Arendse says.
He adds that the 2012 Kia Champ in the Arena concept is also an excellent opportunity for players to broaden their horizons.
“I was fortunate to play for the Kia SA team and travel around the world doing so. I learnt a lot during my time abroad and I think the opportunity to represent South Africa on the international stage should be the dream for any player at any level of the game. The Kia Champ in the Arena concept will afford the winning South African team the opportunity to do that.”
Brazil and Spain have been the dominant forces in the men’s professional game down the years, while in Africa it is Egypt who have led the way. But the growing popularity of the game in South Africa means we are catching up fast.
But now it is amateur teams who will be given the opportunity to prove that they are the country’s best in the Kia Champ into the Arena tournament, which starts with provincials finals to be staged this month and next, followed by the national finals on June 10.
The 2011 Kia Champ into the Arena global finals were held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and were won by Soweto-based Scorpions FC, who represented Kia SA and beat hosts Argentina 5-2 in the Final.
It was a remarkable achievement for the team who were considered underdogs going into the tournament, but who triumphed against the odds. The team received another treat, the chance to watch live the Final of the 2011 Copa America tournament as Uruguay beat Paraguay 3-0.
“Winning the KIA Champ into the Arena and watching the Final of the Copa America Tournament was by far the highlight for us. We knew that we were not just representing ourselves, but our country as well and this made us very proud. We have been lauded by our community and for many of the guys this was a huge boost to them personally. It has certainly opened doors,” said Scorpions FC player JabulaniMnisi.
Sidesenteringthe 2012 Kia Champ into the Arena tournament must consist of five players and one substitute, with participants able to rotate in and out of the game at any stage. Matches are played over two halves of seven minutes each.
The provincial competition gets underway in Cape Town on 12 May and 13, and will be staged at Sunningdale Sports Complex, Sunningdale.
The show then moves on to Durban a fortnight later on the weekend of
26 – 27 May, with that competition to be played at Crusaders Sports Club, Durban North.
Teams from Gauteng will also get their chance to qualify for the national finals with their qualification tournament to be held on the weekend of 2 – 3 June at Italian Club, Bedfordview.
The top three teams from the three provincial qualifiers will then meet in a nine-team tournament to determine the outright winner in the National Finals on 10 June 2012, scheduled to be held at the Italian Sports Club, Bedfordview.