Under-19 squads battle for Premier Cup glory

D&G Orient FC coach Fadiel Dove, left, guides his charges during a friendly warm-up match against fellow Premier Cup contenders Hanover Park FC.

A lack of a major sponsor, a crippling drought and to top it all off, a catastrophic global pandemic, are just some of the difficulties organisers of the annual under-19 Bayhill Premier Cup (BPC) have faced in recent years.

For now, it’s all systems go as the qualifying squads and supporters gather at Erica Park, in Belhar, for the 31st edition of the Easter soccer spectacular, which kicks off today, Wednesday April 13.

Established in 1989, the tournament has been around for more than three decades but didn’t take place over the last two years due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns.

Hosts Bayhill United will have their work cut out in Group B, alongside Amalaw’s FC, Blue Downs Spurs and Wayside Wanderers.

Spurs and Wanderers get the proceedings under way at 3pm in this group’s opening fixture. Today’s other opening match will see Jordan Callies taking on Hustlaz Academy in a Group C clash.

All eyes will be on Group A when champions Highlands Park take on FC Real in their opening match, tomorrow, Thursday 14, at 3pm.

Already some pundits are predicting an all PSL or Gauteng affair for the final, as a number of top-flight clubs from up north feature in this year’s showpiece, as has been the case in previous years.

In 2019, the last time the tournament was held, Highlands Park beat Mamelodi Sundowns 4-2 on penalties after playing to a 1-all draw.

However, as is the nature of the game, anyone can win and Cape sides have every reason to fancy their chances.

“Most of our players came through the ranks and are looking forward to the tournament,” said Hanover Park coach Benjamin “Benna” Hutchinson, who has been with the club for more than 20 years.

“I haven’t seen any of the players that I’ve worked with so hungry for success,” he said, following his side’s 4-2 victory in a friendly Premier Cup warm-up match against neighbours D&G Orient FC from Manenberg.

“It’s always the idea to have players come through the ranks as your senior first team players. It creates continuity, “ he said.

“For me it’s another challenge and also a good experience with a new group of players representing the club.

All they can do is just show the people of Cape Town what they made of and also take their football to the next level,” said D&G coach Mogamat Fadiel Dove, whose side will make their fourth Premier Cup appearance.

Two-time Premier Cup winner, and current Grassy Park United head coach, Mangaliso “Shakes” Ntombana, from Philippi, is targeting his third title.

Ntombana will be on the Grassy Park bench along with the side’s under-19 coach Ryan Steers and the rest of their technical team.

As usual, 32 teams divided into eight groups of four, will battle it out over the next six days with the final scheduled to be played on Easter Monday.

Ntombana won the tournament with Philippi United in 2012 and Glendene United in 2015.

In fact, he’s no stranger to winning trophies and the list of his achievements is endless, including Safa Cape Town’s Coke Cup, with Glendene.

He has also won the Kenpark under-23 tournament three times. However, he is aware that Grassy Park’s technical team will have their work cut out in Belhar as they are in tough Group E alongside Wits University, Safa-Cape Town Academy and Rebels FC.

Ntombana said he is motivated by the love of working with children and helping them grow to their full potential.

“We, as coaches at grassroots level, must start teaching children basics from an early age,” he said.

“I also believe that drivers must have a licence, meaning that we encourage all coaches to attend coaching courses.

“I am planning to complete my coaching courses, so next year I need to do my CAF A licence,” he said.

The wily tactician has been coaching since 2000. He started out at Red Lion FC, before moving on to Philippi United, then Glendene, Trojan and Grassy Park.

“The first guy who guided me a lot was the late Simo Bokfell until Duren Francis recruited me to Philippi United and continued guiding me,” he said.

Ntombana also insists that South Africa is not doing badly in terms of producing talented youngsters.

“I just think we can do a lot more to improve the standard of our football and as I stated earlier, the moment all drivers have their licences then the standard of football will improve, especially in disadvantaged communities.

“In Germany, for instance, no one is allowed to coach without papers, so that means only those who are serious about coaching get a chance, even at grassroots level.

“Even us here in disadvantaged communities, we need to sit down with all coaches and help each other as we are all students of the game.

“We have guys like Masonwabe Mbazo( from Langa), Scara Matiwane (Gugs), Siza Gola (Delft), Tandwa Mveleli (Delft), Khanyo Majezi (Philippi), Msekeli Mvalo (Nyanga), Gareth Ncaca (Langa), Gabriel Nkanti (Philippi) and many more.”

Meanwhile, tournament director PJ Williams is confident that this year’s event will live up to its usual high standards, despite some of the challenges they faced.

“The 31st edition of BPC is upon us. After two years of absence, I do not know whether I should be excited or anxious. So much to do, so little time.

“What I know though, is that this is the most exciting time for the players, clubs, and spectators. Somewhere among this year’s participating teams there could be a rough diamond just waiting to be discovered,” he said.

“There are a few new visiting teams participating for the first time. Imagine some of those players coming to the Mother City for the first time,” he said.

“Such are the opportunities that the BPC creates with our partners and sponsors.

“I wish the visitors safe travels to Cape Town. Also a sincere welcome to the BPC.

“Some restrictions are still in place. We therefore ask our loyal supporters and spectators to adhere to the rules. Be tolerant and eager to make the systems work.

“We will on our side try and make the tournament as enjoyable as possible.

“To the players, we know you have waited for this for a long time. Use this opportunity to your advantage and do your best.

“Thanks again to the match officials for offering up their time and to all our partners, thanks for your support towards making BPC happen again,” he said.

Visit premiercup-bayhill.co.za for more information.

– Additional reporting by Mzoxolo Budaza

Bayhill United chairman John Rangoli, speaking at the launch of the tournament earlier this year.