This was a spectacular footballing weekend. Chippa United downed the mighty Orlando Pirates at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium with David Zulu’s goal. Kaizer Chiefs edged Maritzburg United to make it Seven PSL wins while securing R1.5m as the PSL’s first quarter winners.
But which team stood out? Chelsea? Barcelona? Real Madrid?
Nope, the team of the weekend for me were the bunch of winners nobody in South Africa was able to watch on television (thanks very much SABC and SuperSport), our Under-17s, AmaJimbos.
While Arsenal were concluding their 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby and Stuart Baxter’s Chiefs were putting together their 11th win in 11 games to start the season at Soccer City, Molefi Ntseki’s men were at Cairo’s Contractors’ Stadium in front of 3000 passionate Egyptians trying to defend a 2-1 home advantage.
Nobody expected our youngsters, led by SuperSport United’s Nelson Maluleka to qualify for the African Youth Championship in Niger next year. But then we know so little about these highly-motivated lads.
In the goalposts Mondli Mpoto is another Itumeleng Khune. Out wide, Vuyo Mantjie from Harmony in the Free State weaves pure magic. At the back, towering Keanu Cupido holds it all together. And up front, Khanyisa Mayo from the Eastern Cape may just prove to be the new Benni McCarthy.
I couldn’t secure a visa for Cairo, so I have to rely on Safa’s communications manager for much of what happened on Saturday. But I do know this: Mayo scored the first goal to make it 3-1 on aggregate to the AmaJimbos. And his second goal, drawing the keeper before scoring with a neat chip, was apparently a thing of real beauty.
The Egyptians, the powerhouse of African football with all the big records at international (seven Afcon titles) and club level (Al Ahly and Zamalek) fought back from 2-0 down to 2-2 but were ousted 4-3 on aggregate.
Coach Molefi Ntseki and his lads had, remarkably, broken with acceptable practice. They had overcome the Pharaohs and bloodied the nose of the Sphinx.
It has been a long road to Niger 2015 and if they get to the African semi-finals, the Under-17 World Cup in Chile. It started with two friendly wins over Lesotho, then two warm-up wins in Botswana.
I was there for the 0-0 draw in Tanzania when Mantjie and several of his pals took their first ever trip on an aeroplane to Dar Es Salaam. Then came the rousing 4-0 second-leg win at Dobsonville to open the route to Cairo.
And now, 7000km and eight unbeaten games later, our Under-17s have joined Amajita and Banyana Banyana in qualifying for their African tournament.
Predictably, Ntseki is excited. “Yes, this is a good achievement and great for my CV but I am now looking beyond Niger, I want to take these boys to Chile for the World Cup,” he said.
Ntseki, 45, is an impressive figure. Tall, imposing and not to be taken lightly. Assistant coach Shawn Bishop is younger and softer. Ntseki insists: “There is massive talent in South Africa and the boys have shown what we can achieve if we stick together and have a common purpose.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Safa president, Dr Danny Jordaan, his executive and the entire administration for their unwavering support for the team. Dr Jordaan has supported this team through and through. He was there to see the team off to Egypt and was the first to congratulate the team after the final whistle in Cairo.”
Ntseki and the squad spent the day touring the great pyramids of Egypt. They arrived home yesterday. There will be plenty of travelling to come. Niger next year and, God willing, Chile after that.
If our Under-17s can go that far. The future of Bafana Bafana will begin to look as it should and brighter than it has for years.