By CHRIS TOTOBELA
The highly anticipated New Year’s Cup (NYC) launch and draw at the Belmont Golf Club did not live up to expectations, as the teams did not pitch up as expected.
Most teams struggled to find the venue, including the local ones. Former Makana Mayor Clr Nomhle Gaga, now serving as Speaker for the Sarah Baartman District Council, opened the launch and applauded the organisers for their hard work.
She encouraged sports people to make their voices heard in their municipalities and hold municipalities accountable for upgrading and maintaining community sports facilities.
NYC chairman Luyanda Papu said he was devastated when he arrived in Makhanda to find the pitch at the JD Dlepu Stadium badly churned up after it played host to the rain-soaked Makana Music Festival on 17 December.
Organisers were forced to move the event to the 6SAI Battalion army base, rendering the games inaccessible to many fans.
Papu said the tournament would be bigger and better in 2023.
The day’s main focus was the draw conducted by Christo Stephens, assisted by former Bafana Bafana star Mzuvukile Tom.
The home sides got a reasonable draw. Abantwana will lock horns with Guqaza FC while Sophia Stars face Soul Buddies. Bathurst City will face Camper United.
The pick of the draw sees former two-times champions Maru battling against Alicedale-based Ayeza Amanzi FC – formed two years ago – in the tournament’s opening game on Christmas Day at the army base in a 3 pm kick-off.
Ayeza Amanzi coach Sihle Bongo said he was pleased with the draw. “This is the game that we have been dreaming about. I have seen Maru play and know their weaknesses. I urge everyone to come and see us play the kind of football they will enjoy. We are not sacred of Maru, and we will show everyone that we are not here to add numbers but to compete.
“It will be the first time the fans see a team from the rural areas playing the type of football that we will play in this tournament,” he said.
Bongo played in this tournament in 2017 with Sakhulutsha and was also a tactical analyst for Grahamstown United when they won it.
This opening game promises to be a cracker as Maru are no pushovers. This game might set the standard for the entire tournament, and it would be interesting to see if Ayeza Amanzi’s action on the field will match Bongo’s talk.
Local fans will definitely rally behind the home side.