Football fanatics, players are officials brazed blazing hot temperatures and gathered at Rocklands High School in Mitchell’s Plain for the last round of qualifiers for this year’s Bayhill under-19 Premier Cup, at the weekend.
There was a lot at stake as 32 teams, divided into seven groups, battled it out for a spot in the finals, which will take place in Erica Park, Belhar, over the Easter weekend.
Unlike in the past, where Ajax Cape Town had an automatic qualification to the tournament due to their previous PSL status, this time around they had to do battle in the dusty and sandy pitches, in order to earn their spot.
The six-time champions were slotted in Group B alongside Atlantic Nacional, Citizens FC and Ikapa Sporting.
The Parow-based side, who were back-to-back winners in 2013 and 2014 didn’t really have problems booking their spot in Belhar.
They topped the group with seven points after winning two and drawing one of their three matches.
They kicked off their campaign on Saturday morning. And, on their way was Milnerton’s Atlantic Nacional.
The young Urban Warriors didn’t really have issues negotiating their way past Nacional, recording a 3-1 win.
They were back on the field again on Sunday morning to take on Langa’s Citizen FC. And, unlike, their match against Nacional the previous day, the Citizens gave Ajax a run for their money. The results bear testimony to this as Ajax could only record a 1-0 victory.
Just when many thought the Citizen FC match was Ajax’s toughest, their next opponents, an equally talented Ikapa Sporting, had other ideas.
The Mitchell’s Plain-based outfit was a difficult nut to crack. In fact, they matched their opponents in all departments.
The sides, in the end, had to share the spoils as the match ended in a goalless draw. That result saw both qualifying for the tournament proper.
Ikapa finished second on the group standings with four points. In their road to the finals, the side recorded a 1-0 win against Citizen and goalless draws against Nacional and Ajax.
Meanwhile, in Group F, Elsies River-based Wayside Wanderers are on the verge of making their Bayhill debut.
The side, which plays in the Northern Suburbs LFA, proved a handful against some tough opponents at the weekend.
They kicked off their last round of qualifiers with the match against Athlone-based Avendale Athletico on Saturday morning. That, however, proved to be a less-than-ideal start for them as they went down 2-1.
But, to their credit, they bounced back strongly to beat Bafana United and Beacon Spurs 2-1 and 3-0 respectively. Group F is one of the two groups that have five teams (instead of the normal four) in this year’s qualifiers, and that meant their matches will be finalised on Sunday February 16.
The Elsies outfit will take on Manenberg’s Jordan Callies and a draw in that match might just be enough to see them through.