FIVE of the 11 footballers selected for the MTN PMB FA Cup Team of the Tournament are from KZN10 schools.
In what was a hotly-contested final, the tournament was won by defending champions Hilton College, who edged Maritzburg College 4-2 in a gripping penalty shootout after the teams were locked 1-1 at the end of regulation time. This was a fiercely competitive football event in which any one of the top seven or eight teams might well have emerged title winners on another weekend.
The five players selected from the KZN10 schools that this website is all about, are goalkeeper Costi Christodoulou and midfielder Simphiwe Bhembe (both Hilton College), midfielder Kholwani Mthembu and striker Simphiwe Zondi (both Maritzburg College) and striker Luyanda Prince Mazeka (St Charles College).
Congratulations to all 11 selected – the other six players coming from three schools – Alex, Haythorne and Carter (two each). They are defenders Sinalo Ntlahla (Carter), Mxhumanisi Zulu (Alex) and Thembinkhosi Mkhize (Haythorne); midfielders Mnotho Nene (Alex) and Bryce Beyers (Haythorne), and striker Tevan Jones (Carter).
Tevan Jones, the cousin of Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana striker Ryan Moon, equalled his cousin’s PMB FA Cup record of 8 goals.
There must have been a host of players in contention for the various positions, such was the quality of individual players in this 20-team tournament.
The selection panel convenor was Wade du Plessis, the former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper who was voted by the popular Soccer Laduma publication as one of the five best Kaizer Chiefs shot-stoppers in the iconic South African football club’s long and distinguished history.
It certainly was no easy task for Wade and panel – there were 57 MTN PMB FA Cup matches spread over 53 hours on four pitches, from Friday, 24 August to Sunday, 26 August, so it took a knowledgeable, practised eye to know where to be, what to look for, and what qualities to take note of.
Looking at the five selected players mentioned above, these are my layman’s observations gathered over the three days.
* There are many other factors in assessing a player, of course – and I am sure others would add further qualities to my impressions, these are just my thoughts:
Goalkeeper Costi Christodoulou (Hilton College): Meticulous in his pre-match preparation. An imposing figure, Costi “owns” the goalmouth through sheer force of presence and personality. Costi’s unique field view affords him the opportunity to offer advice to his defenders when the opposition are on attack, and during set-pieces. His accurate boot, be it dead-ball or out-of-hand, is a prime attacking weapon, particularly given the 50-to 60-metre range he possesses. Razor-sharp reflexes honed over countless hours of training sessions, coupled with the ability to read a penalty-taker’s body language, make Costi a match-winner in a shootout. Technically, Costi is the full package, be it catch, palm, punch or keeper-positional awareness.
Midfielder Simphiwe Bhembe (Hilton College): I may be wrong, but so be it – this is what I saw from a layman’s perspective. Simphiwe is agile, technically adept in assessing which of two or three on-face-value viable passing options is the most effective in any game situation. Protects the ball, enviable work rate, a marked ability to open a game up through an astute application of his skill set. Knows how to up the tempo of the game or slow it down, appreciates his responsibilities and holds himself accountable for his actions.
Midfielder Kholwani Mthembu (the Maritzburg College captain): An outstanding tackler, exceptionally game aware, knowing where to plug the holes and make the calls when his team are drawn out of formation. Strong-minded, the kind of team-mate every player wants to have alongside him. Doesn’t shy away from physical challenges,a possessor of great stamina, durability and the foresight to identify and deliver an accurate long pass, be it a cross-field, straight or diagonal ball.
Striker Luyanda Prince Mazeka (the St Charles College captain): Be it on the ground or in the air, the opposing team’s player will know that Prince has one thing on his mind – winning possession. So, an ability to take ownership of 50-50 ball, the prowess to shoot powerfully with left and right feet, very good in the air. As the target-man, the skill to receive the ball in tidy fashion and the visual awareness to know which is the best of several lay-off-pass options. Extreme pace over the first five- to 10 metres, Luyanda can leave an opponent for dead whether swivelling left or right. An instinctive awareness of where to be, in the right place at the right time.
Striker Simphiwe Zondi (Maritzburg College): An out-and-out striker – goals are what he is about, be it with the head or the feet. A rangy build means Simphiwe is an obvious target man – strong in the air and on the ground – but it has its down sides. Seen as the opposition’s prime goal-scoring weapon, closely marked, shadowed by the opposition defender, the inevitable physical contact in goal-threatening positions meant that Simphiwe took more than his fair share of knocks. Yet he still scored 7 goals.