Free State set for youth tourney


The draw saw Bloemfontein Celtic Colts being paired in Group C with Eagles United, Navilsig High and Brebner High in what has been described as the 'group of death'.

The group has the potential to provide soccer fans with some of the best games in the tournament, which runs from 4-6 July at Grey College Sports Grounds in Bloemfontein.

Former Bloemfontein Celtic forward George Nechironga, now Celtic Colts’ manager, has welcomed the draw and said his boys are ready for the matches.

“It is one of the most difficult groups of the competition, but I’m positive we’ll do much better than last year [third place finish]. We are looking forward to the challenge ahead and our boys are ready to compete for the championship this time around.

“We are going to use almost the same team that played in this tournament last year. Only three or four players who were part of our squad won’t be available as they are over 17 years this year. But those who will be replacing them are equally good players,” Nechironga said.

The defending champions, Harmony Sports Academy of Virginia, who won the competition for the past six consecutive years, were pooled in Group D with Calculus High, Mangaung Unite FC and hosts Grey College.

“I’m happy about the outcome of the draw. However, being pitted with Grey in the same group always gives us a headache because they are a good team. But we are ready to compete against the best teams in the tournament.

“Hopefully we’ll successfully defend our title. We still have about eight players who were part of my squad last year,” said Harmony coach Pitso Mokoena.

Ludwig Koekemoer, the tournament organiser, said they are going to introduce a new registration system this year, whereby all the players will be doing a fingerprint scan.

“We are going to have a mobile unit system at the venue after the player registration has taken place. Instead of asking players for their registration cards, we are going to ask the players to make a thumb scan.

“If the player is not registered we’ll pick that up. However, we’ll still have their registration cards in our possession. We want to try and move away from the old paperwork system,” Koekemoer explained.

“We are happy about this new innovation this year. We are trying to come up with something new every year. I hope we’ll have a great tournament. Good luck to all the teams who will be participating in the event this year,” he added.

Meanwhile, Pumeza Ntisana, who represented Engen, expressed her delight with her company’s involvement in the competition.

“Engen is very proud to be involved in youth football for 11 years. This has been at the heart of our corporation as it provides young footballers with the opportunity to showcase their talent.

“Many young footballers who competed in the Under-17 Engen Knockout Challenge have gone on to compete at the highest level in South Africa,” Ntisana said.

“All the Under-17 Engen Knockout Challenge attendees can look forward to great entertainment. It remains our vision to support football as part of our community cohesion.

“We look forward to this tournament each year where we can be instrumental in providing opportunities for those who love the game, but who would otherwise not traditionally be able to participate in the competition level,” she concluded.