It was the morning of the underdogs when Willow Stars, from Gugulethu, stunned a courageous Grassy Park United Football Club, at the Khayelitsha Stadium, this past Sunday.
This thrilling Safa Cape Town Coca-Cola Cup quarter final, was played by some of the finest under-18 footballers, from some of the most respected townships known for producing raw talent in the country.
The likes of Eric Kombela (Amazulu and Manning Rangers), Yagan Sasman (AFC Eskilstuna in Sweden) and Noxolo Cesane (Banyana Banyana), were groomed in these patchy grounds.
On paper, Grassy Park were the better team; the supporters, perhaps, expected to walk over the Nyanga-Local Football Association’s Willow Stars.
“Die mense vannie Park” are the Bayhill Premier Cup under-19 reigning champions, a status they worked hard to maintain over the years. In every competition they participate in, they show up.
But Willow Stars got the better of Grassy Park on Sunday. The players in green drew first blood early in the game. Grassy Park pumped momentum and found the equaliser in the second half.
The game went straight to penalties with the goalkeeper from Willow Stars, Lisakhanya Tshuku displaying a man-of-the-match performance from the beginning of the game right until the end of the penalties.
He saved two penalties to win the game, attracting the attention of the Safa Cape Town selectors who were visibly focused from their camping chairs.
Willow Stars defender, Qhamani Bontshi said they are going all the way to the finals at Athlone Stadium.
“It was not easy. It was tough from the start. We played with amajita (gents) and they put in the effort. We are now heading to the semi finals. In fact, we are going to (the final in) Athlone, majita,” said Bontshi.
Coach at Willow Stars, Siyabulela Waphi said he was in another universe filled with happiness following the results produced by his boys
“My child, I am happy, man. Kaloku, Willow Stars has never been here, let alone make it to the semi-finals of the Coke Cup,” he said.
Grassy Park’s head coach, Rezaan Jacobs said his young lads were unfortunate to go out on penalties, however, they played their hearts out.
“I could see on the pitch how they cared and wanted to win the game. We had two teams out there today that probably played the game of their lives and having penalties decide the outcome should tell you exactly how tough the game was today,” he said.
Jacobs said he is proud of his boys’ achievement throughout the year.
“The positive is that we have shown growth through this performance and it’s another step forward in terms of our development as a team. I’m proud of my boys. I love them a lot and we will now turn our focus to our last games of the league as we are one win away from winning the under-18 league title for 2023.”