The Nike Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto was abuzz with excitement on Wednesday as 12 teams battled it out at the SAFA Under-17 Inter-Provincial Tournament in search of the much sought after Championship. The opening ceremony was attended by FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke and Dr Danny Jordaan, President of the South African Fooball Association (SAFA). They were accompanied by SAFA National Executive Committee members Anthony Reeves and Mzwandile Maforvane.
“Welcome to all of you, you are the future of South African football and you have the potential to represent this country at the next World Cup tournament in Russia in 2018. What we are seeing today is a very important part of development because we need a strong youth football in order to have a competitive senior national team. I would like to commend SAFA with this tournament because it is key to develop from bottom to the top and in that way, this will help South Africa qualify for major tournaments, not just by hosting. The dream of FIFA is to see a strong African football that will be able to compete against the best in the world, and I believe this is a major step taken by SAFA. Good luck to all of the participants, and may the best team win,” said Valcke at the opening ceremony.
His words were echoed by the SAFA president, “For us as an Association it was important to have this kind of tournament to kick start our football development. We already have Under-13 and Under-15 leagues up and running and with this U17 tournament we are well on our way in addressing the challenges of the past. We have several talent scouts at this event and at the end of the tournament on Sunday we will have a squad of players from which the Under-17 Men’s National team will be formed. So this is a very crucial tournament as it will dictate the future of our football.”
Some of the talent scouts include Shakes Mashaba, former Bafana Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena, Doctor Khumalo, Alex Heredia, the Bafana Bafana goalkeeper trainer, Molefi Ntseki, Mackey Chenia, Shawn Bishop and Neil Tovey. On the field, Bidvest Wits registered a 1-0 victory over Limpopo in the opening match of the tournament with a Nicholas Ladeira goal. Then Charles Baloyi helped North West to a 1-0 win against the Western Cape in the second match of the day.
Mamelodi Sundowns started with a bang, scoring five past the Western Cape without any reply from the coastal side. Sundowns led 3-0 at the break with goals from Avuyile Mkhundlu, Mnelisi Mbhele and Christopher Kyriacos. Mnelisi Mbhele and Pheko completed the rout in the second half. Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal locked horns in the fourth game of the day that ended in 1-1 stalemate. Ayabulela Tambo and Preston Morris scored for the two sides respectively.
In the fifth match of the day, Kaizer Chiefs emulated Sundowns by also defeating Gauteng 5-0. The final will take place on Sunday at the same venue, starting at 12h30.