Selati Cup thrusts grassroots soccer stars onto national stage
Mpumalanga tournament is celebrated for opening doors for talented young players
It’s been eight action-packed weeks since the Selati Cup 2018 kicked off. As the soccer tournament draws to a close with the top 16 now in contention, Mpumalanga is holding its breath to see who this year’s winner will be.
Last year, Kamhlushwa Real Madrid were crowned the Selati Cup champions after defeating Buffelspruit Home Defenders in a close encounter that came down to the final minutes.
Kenneth Phiri, Selati Cup tournament co-ordinator, says: “As always, we’ve come to expect a high level of performance and an impressive spirit of competition from all the teams taking part in the Selati Cup.
“In 13 years, no team has ever won the cup more than once, which shows just how competitive the field really is. Each year, new talent comes to the fore and stronger teams come into the running, so we’re looking forward to seeing what this year’s final has in store.”
More than 120 teams have been whittled down to just 16 over the course of the past two months. All the heart-pounding action culminates on June 3 with about 15,000 spectators crowding into Kamhlushwa Stadium to cheer their favourites on as they compete for a prize of more than R100,000.
The Selati Cup is also a grassroots soccer breeding ground where scouts from the national teams come in search of fresh talent. Local stars such as Enocent Mkhabela, Velile Zitha, Mpho Mbebe, Jabulani Dladla and Ludick Mkhatshwa all found their way onto the national stage after being scouted at tournaments.
Twenty-eight-year-old midfielder Mkhabela, famous for his debut in the Premier Soccer League for Platinum Stars in 2011, kicked off his career back in 2005 while playing for local team Santos in the Selati Cup. He went on to play for South African favourites Kaizer Chiefs in 2016, but has since returned to the Platinum Stars under coach Calvin Johnson.
Mkhabela recalls the strong community support all players received while participating in the tournament: “The Selati Cup prepared me mentally […] to play in front of more than 300 fans and to play under pressure, especially when the supporters are not on your side.”
Mkhatshwa, who was also scouted by Free State Stars following an impressive performance in the Selati Cup, says: “The Selati Cup opens doors for young players like myself and helps them break into the professional football industry.”
International soccer star Lucas Radebe will once again be guiding the semifinalist teams through a training workshop leading up to the final – and cheering the teams on from the sidelines.
Following his visit to the tournament last year, Radebe said: “As always, I enjoyed visiting Mpumalanga, and I am always in awe of the passion the fans there have for the game. I was really impressed by the quality of talent on display.”
Visit the new Selati Cup Facebook page, which will keep fans closer than ever to the action. Plus, you could win a share of R100,000. To enter, buy any Selati Sugar product and SMS the barcode to 32372.
This article was paid for by Selati.