by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG – THE cancellation of the country’s biggest amateur festive season tournaments is a major setback to the entire football ecosystem reliant on these events across South Africa.
Spare a thought for the teams that had set their sights on the financial rewards and the players that were eager to attract the attention of scouts eyeing talent for the professional leagues.
The spectators, vendors and small businesses profiting from the holding of these tournaments have also been dealt a severe blow during what has been a forgettable year because of the worsening coronavirus (COVID-19) bedeviling the country.
The biggest festive football tourney of them all, the KwaMahlobo Festive Games, is the latest tournament to be cancelled.
Considering the second wave of the pandemic, and fears of the tightening of the lockdown measures, the depressing cancellation was inevitable.
“It’s so sad but we can’t do anything because COVID-19 is here,” Patrick Dlongolo Ntenjwa, tournament manager and co-founder, lamented.
The event was planned for December 23 to January 5 at its traditional at Meadowlands Zone 10 venue in Soweto.
“It’s bad not only to the teams but also the supporters, vendors and all businesses,” Ntenjwa told CAJ News Africa.
Founded in 1996, the KwaMahlobo Festive Games have a rich history and lauded for the number of the seasonal employment opportunities they create.
Started only as a four-team tournament, with prize money of R4 000, it has grown exponentially such that many prominent players have passed through the games.
These include Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Xola Mlambo and Sibusiso Vilakazi.
“We had many teams interested to play for this edition. We were looking forward to hosting 48 teams,” Ntenjwa disclosed.
In the 2019/20 edition, Orlando Mathaithai defended their title and banked R120 000 plus the KwaMahlobo Trophy and gold medals.
Runners-up, Meadowlands All Stars, walked away with R50 000. Playoff winners Hungry Stars and Braamfisher Tsalanang won R15 000 each.
With South Africa imposing one of the strictest lockdowns globally, since March, Ntenjwa said the postponement of the 2020/21 edition was unavoidable.
“Big events were no held this year, including the Carling Black Label Cup, Durban July and the Soweto Marathon among others. We can’s dent the image of the Games,” he said.
Last month, the popular annual Maimane Alfred Phiri Games, set for Alexandra, were also cancelled.
Organisers of the Philly’s Games, set for 20-30 December in Tembisa, have announced the games will proceed with no spectators and vendors allowed.
They will be played behind closed doors with strict COVID-19 protocols being followed by the 16 teams and officials.
South Africa is enduring the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the continent.
The government of President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed a second wave on Wednesday, a day where more than 6 700 new local cases pushed the caseload to 828 598 and 22 578 deaths.
– CAJ News