Cape Town - The much-anticipated MultiChoice Diski Challenge kicks off Saturday, September 13 at the King Zwelithin Stadium in Umlazi, Durban and promises to be a thriller.
The first weekend of the tournament will feature the eight teams from Group A, while the other teams from Group B will begin the following weekend in Cape Town.
Since the launch in August the event has got rave reviews from the football fraternity, mainly because it’s the first of its kind in the country with the number of opportunities that will be available to young players.
Not only will the players be able to showcase their talent on the field, MultiChoice will also be offering life and leadership skills training with the first worship taking place this weekend on Sunday, which will be a day after the matches.
The main action though will be on the field where the youngsters will battle it out for supremacy and each team will be eager to set the tone early on by claiming the three points at stake straight away. If the teams can produce the same rivalry that exists when the senior teams meet in the PSL matches, we can expect fireworks from the onset.
AmaZulu and Orlando Pirates will get the honour to feature in the first match of this inaugural tournament, where the fans will be keen to see if the country’s future is bright based on the football that will be displayed by the teams.
That it is something that Pirates’ head of development Augusto Palacios is well aware of and he couldn’t hide his excitement about the immense opportunity the Diski Challenge is presenting to the youngsters.
“We are very excited about the competition, it is a first of its kind. It reminds me of the time SuperSport used to host an under 19 tournament, of which we managed to win as Pirates. The tournament gives the players exposure at an early age, they will be identified by the fans and the media because the matches will be live. It will make the players hungry to deliver.”
“It gives the youngsters a chance to shine, it will also open doors for them to be selected for the different national teams and even Bafana Bafana,” said Palacios, who also mentioned that his squad has a mixture of Under 17 and Under 23 players."
He has also called up few players who have been training with the senior Pirates squad which include Mbongeni Gumede, Siyabonga Ngubo and Menzi Masuku. “We will not use the same players, we will be rotating them because it is important for them to get game time,” Palacios concluded.
Maritzburg United will entertain Kaizer Chiefs in the next match where the home side will be counting on the support from the local fans who will be packing the stadium. United have always provide a stern test for Chiefs at the senior level, this encounter promises to be no different.
Chiefs' development coach Donald “Ace” Khuse reminded the players about the opportunity the tournament presents. “The competition will help in the development of the players, the youngsters will be exposed to the professional approach involved in the game. There will be lot of logistics involved, which will make it easy to integrate development into the mainstream of professional football,” said the club’s legend.
Added advantage for the youngsters from both teams will be the chance to be on the field with Chiefs’ star Matthew Rusike who is coming back from injury and will be given a run as he tries to regain his fitness.
He promised to make his presence felt when speaking on the club’s website. “I’m happy to join the reserve team, I’m coming back from injury and to get game time is important. It will be great to help the team get three points. That’s the philosophy of our coach (Stuart Baxter), together we form a team, that’s a message he’s getting across.”
The afternoon will provide more exciting football as Bloemfontein Celtic meet University of Pretoria. Both teams are known for producing talented youngsters and promote them to the senior teams, fans will get a chance to identify that talent early on and be able to pick the players to watch in future.
It is a match that both Ernst Middendorp and Steve Barker, who coach the clubs’ senior teams and are not shy of promoting young talent, will be looking forward to.
Bidvest Wits and Platinum Stars wrap up the opening day proceedings late in the afternoon when they also get a chance to showcase the future of their teams. Both clubs have good development structures; they’ve also promoted a number of exciting youngsters over the years, and that has become something they practice every season.
Expect the senior teams’ coaches Gavin Hunt and Allan Freese to also have one eye on this clash in between their duties in the senior league.
The stage is set for the future of our football to step up and convince every football lover that the country’s upcoming talent has got what it takes.
10:30am AmaZulu v Orlando Pirates
12:30pm Maritzburg United v Kaizer Chiefs
2:30pm Bloemfontein Celtic v Univeristy of Pretoria
4:30pm Bivest Wits v Platinum Stars