Lions end 16-year PSL drought

GladAfrica Championship

Hungry Lions' promotion into the GladAfrica Championship has seen the Northern Cape get representation in the PSL for the first time in 16 years.

Louisvale Pirates were the last club to play in the professional ranks spending the 2004/05 season in what was then known as the Mvela Golden League after finishing as runners-up at the Vodacom Promotional Play-Offs the previous year.

Pirates lasted just a season in the first division and were relegated along with Avendale Athletico, North West Tigers and Dangerous Darkies after finishing bottom.

They played their home matches at the Danie Kuys Stadium in Upington and were owned by Freddy Witbooi with Pheka Ratlankana as coach, while Eugene Phillips was the captain.

Fast forward to 2020/21, Hungry Lions has found its way up after winning the ABC Motsepe National Play-Offs. 

"This has been long overdue for our province," says Norman Smith, who played for Pirates before moving to Golden Arrows in 2005 in a career that also took him to SuperSport United, Thanda Royal Zulu, Jomo Cosmos and Maritzburg United.

Prior to that there was Basotho Tigers, who played in the first division until 2004 when the franchise was bought and relocated to Vryburg under the name North West Tigers.

William Pescod also played in the first division prior to that.

"The last team that played in the first division was Louisvale Pirates who I played for before I left for Arrows. How many years ago was that? That was like some 15 or 16 years ago and since then we haven’t had a professional team in the province.

"Imagine we are the biggest province by way of size in this country and yet we had no representation in football for all the talent that we also have. It is really frustrating that we went for so many years without a club of our own as that was depriving our boys a chance to shine with a club of their own.

"There was no exposure for the local lads, so it made it really difficult for them to get a breakthrough. A player from Northern Cape always has to do more than any other player from anywhere else in the province to get exposure.

"I had to go to Durban to get my breakthrough in the PSL. Now with Hungry Lions coming up they will at least give a chance to all the kids in the province. This was long overdue because they have been knocking on this door for a long time.

"Even for the elders they couldn’t watch any professional football because there was no club in the province," says Smith, who is now retired.

The Northern Cape has fed the PSL with Jimmy Tau, Ruben Cloete, Richard and Joseph Henyekane, Surprise Ralani, Norman Smith, Jurie Basie, James Mothibi, Lebogang Mothibantwa, Rudiger Gilbert and Abram Isaks amongst others. 

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