Soccer a sure hit in December
Grahamstown hosted the inaugural New Year’s Cup soccer tournament over the festive season. The event ran from 16 December, with the closing ceremony and final on 31 December.
Grahamstown-based outfit, Makana Rhini United, made new friends and reunited with old, when they went on to win the tournament. Read about their road to success inside this eight-page pull-out feature. It was fitting that the two teams to make it through to the final were both unbeaten up to that stage.
Maru drew their first two games, and then went on to win the rest of their fixtures.
Amavarara had a great start to the tournament, conceding their first goal only in the quarter-final game. The Amavarara goalkeeper, Gwangwa Mawethu, would end up named Goalkeeper of the Tournament.
“It has been a very captivating platform in all stages of the game, where rare talent has been shown off,” said tournament organiser Sifundo Klaas. In the 63 games played, a total of 122 goals were scored.
Maru not only walked away with the conveted trophy, but also bagged a whopping R100 000 for the club. Amavarara won R50 000. The thirdplaced team, Young Chiefs, won R25 000, while their opponents in the third place play-off, Fairfield Hunting Stars, collected R20 000.
Maru was drawn in what was immediately called the Group of Death by this reporter. They were drawn alongside neighbours City Pirates, MK Academy (Whittlesea) and Young Chiefs (Alice).
That proved correct, as the top two teams at the end of the group, Maru and Young Chiefs, made it through to the semi-finals. That is where they met for the second time.
At the conclusion of the tournament, a number of individual awards were given. The Player of the Tournament was awarded to Makhosandile Plaatjie of Young Chiefs.
Gwangwa Mawethu of Amavarara was named the Goalkeeper of the Tournament. The Young Player of the Tournament was awarded to Buyelekhaya Velelwandle of Fairfield Hunting Stars.
Luntu Bobotyane of Max XI was named top goal scorer. Maru’s, Bongani Lombo, fittingly won the Coach of the Tournament award.
Klaas confirmed that the player of the tournament, Makhosandile Plaatjie, will jet off to Spain for a two-week training camp in April.
“The New Year’s Cup tournament targets the rural areas, as they most need football development and financial back-up,” said Klaas.
“The New Year's Cup aims to retrieve the young talented boys who don’t get a platform to expose their talent.”
Maru players and management celebrate as they hold a loft the New Year’s Cup winners’ trophy, after they beat Amavarara in the final.