By CHRIS TOTOBELA
The 2022 edition of the New Year’s Cup started with a very low-key launch at the Belmont Valley Golf Club with only one team present (Ayeza Amanzi FC).
The guest speaker Clr Nomhle Gaga addressed an audience of five people (including the NYC chairman), which shows that whoever was responsible for organising the launch did not do a good job. The venue was too far and difficult to find, but the draw went ahead.
Teams came from all over Eastern Cape to participate. The standard of play on the field was high despite reducing teams from 32 to 16.
Makhanda was represented by three teams: Maru, Sophia Stars and Abantwana FC.
Maru stumbled at the first hurdle against a solid Ayeza Amanzi side in the tournament’s opening game. The home side seemed unprepared and only started playing in the last few minutes.
Sophia Stars had an impressive game against a weak and disgruntled Soul Buddies side that did not really test them. Stars got a rude awakening in their quarter-final game against finalists and tournament favourites Bush Pirates, who outplayed them and booted them out of the tournament.
Local youngsters shine
Abantwana had a decent run knocking out Guqaza FC in their first game and taking Heroes FC to penalties in their quarter-final game. Abantwana was made up of schoolboys who took part in the local school’s league and took everyone by surprise with their talent level.
Abantwana head coach Siya Dumiso was impressed. “Our boys showed how fertile Makhanda is with talent, and I still can’t believe that we had 15-year-olds who competed against the best players in the province at that level without any fear.”
One of the top local coaches, Luwy Ntlanjeni, shared his views on the performance of the local sides: “If our teams were better prepared, prepared we could be singing a different tune now. You could see that players did not have enough time to train together, but I hope they will work on that mistake this year.”
JD Dlepu vibe missed
Moving the games to the 6SAI Battalion army base was a huge setback, a sentiment echoed by many coaches, including the winning coach, who said the tournament missed the JD Dlepu vibe.
Siya Dumiso shared his views on some of the tournament’s critical issues: “For me, the standard has dropped compared to its first years. Taking it far from the people has also affected it negatively. If we had a locally based LOC, things could have been different, and something could have been done earlier to salvage the field situation. I also wish to see Makana LFA involved as the custodians of football.”
The attendance at the army base was very poor, and it was frustrating for the players to play to empty stands. Even on the final day, it was only the two teams’ sets of fans that watched the game.
Winner-takes-all format criticised
Besides complaining about the lack of a vibrant and exciting atmosphere, most teams also complained about the winner-takes-all format. They said they spent a lot of money and resources to participate in this tournament, and losing in the final meant that all that money went down the drain.
It is a huge ask for amateur players to give their all in the tournament until the final day and still have nothing to show for their efforts. It will be hard for any coach to motivate them.
Makana LFA involvement
Many local football lovers have complained about the lack of Makana LFA involvement in this tournament for years. Current LFA chairman Afika Adam explained: “There is no role that we play in this tournament. We only hear about it in the media – we do not have any document informing us about it. We were elected in November 2021, and we agreed that the NYC does not assist in football development in this city. We have benefited nothing from it.”
In response, NYC chairman Luyanda Papu said the 2022 edition succeeded. “We cannot enter into a political space, especially if music festivals are being prioritised. NYC has always fought against crime and other social ills in our district. The change of venue from JD Dlepu stadium to the army base sabotaged the tournament. But we are still investigating and will get to the bottom of this.”
He also added that NYC is the only tournament in the country that invites custodians of football such as SAFA, Makana LFA, Sarah Baartman and Nelson Mandela Bay region. He mentioned former Makana LFA chairmen Mr Jonas and Mr Dumiso, who have attended it since its inception. “Mr Adam and Mr Heshu were also invited to the 2022 launch. If the current LFA has issues, we have an open-door policy.
“We donated football equipment to Sarah Baartman region and Makana LFA in the past until the pandemic halted everything. We have offered learnership programmes with the region, Makana LFA and the municipality in the presence of Mr Wopa and Mr Heshu. Mr Heshu also participated as a match official in one of our last editions.
“The winner-takes-all criteria widens the competition’s dynamics as it is also done in the professional ranks through the MTN 8 cup.”
NYC will go ‘back to roots’ in 2023
He promised to take the 2023 NYC back to its roots and original format. “This year, we are returning to JD Dlepu stadium with 32 teams competing in a round-robin. We will honour the late Scara Njandayi’s plea not to take the NYC out of this region.”
He said the prize money will go back to R200 000 for this year’s edition and will be shared among the top four teams.
Despite this year’s challenges, players’ spirits were not dampened, and they gave their all.
The refereeing was not bad but not superb either, as there were a couple of poor calls, especially in the Maru game. Including Makana LFA, local referees and administrators in this great initiative would be good.
Sadly, local football lovers largely missed out on this year’s edition. If we want Makhandans to embrace this initiative, they need to be included and made to feel like they own it.
Taking it back to JD Dlepu will also have a positive economic impact as local vendors can sell their goods to visitors.
I was at the Army base every day of the tournament and saw how the visitors struggled to buy urgent food items as they were too far from town, and there was nothing sold at the venue.
The 2022 edition had no impact on the lives of Makhandans and did absolutely nothing for the locals, which needs to change in this year’s edition. We also hope that the decision-makers will consider both music and sports lovers’ needs when granting permission to use JD Dlepu stadium, as significant events are hosted around similar dates in December.