Amidst the disappointment and gloomy outlook following the controversial sale of the country’s oldest PSL football club, Bidvest Wits, the club’s former CEO Derek Blanckensee believes there could be a flicker of hope after all.
Blanckensee started at Wits as an under-19 player before taking up a coaching role in the junior section and then working his way through to administration. He has openly decried the move to sell the club on the eve of its 100-year anniversary, which makes it the oldest football club in the country’s top and second tier.
“It’s the first club to reach a hundred years. So, for it to be sold now is sad,” Blanckensee said.
He, however, believes the club has the pedigree to work their way up from the lower Leagues. Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila FC only bought the club’s PSL status, a development that still leaves the club’s development structures in place.
Blanckensee, therefore, is convinced the Clever Boys could lure suitors to partner and buy an ABC Motsepe League or GladAfrica franchise and make their way back to the top again.
“I think the Wits University Football Club, as it will now return to its historical name, should find new backers and should look at buying a franchise in either the ABC Motsepe league or the GladAfrica, and make their way back to the top again,” Blanckensee told FARPost.
Another former Wits boss Raymond Hack also vowed to keep the Students’ flag in existence as the club is due to celebrate 100 years of its existence next year.
“Wits University is not dead as yet. They sold the Premier League status, but we will still continue with our amateurs and all our juniors and if we have to build up to the Premier Soccer League, we will do that. You can’t destroy Wits University. Fortunately, we have a good relationship with the university,” Hack said.
Before changing the name to reflect their new shareholders, Bidvest Wits were called Wits University and have always been historically linked to the Milpark tertiary institution as they were formed there in 1921.
Mark Haskins, a former Wits player whose son turns out for the club’s Under 15 side, believes the Clever Boys have an excellent development structure and facilities that could still churn out top talents.
Hack concurs with Haskins. “We have the facilities and the players. Kaizer Motaung’s son (Kaizer Junior) came through Wits. Jomo Sono’s son (Bamuza) came through Wits. We’ve got the biggest nursery in the entire country. We’ve spoken to the university and they are in agreement that we will continue with our amateurs. We won’t let it die because the sponsor sold the franchise,” he added.
Interestingly, the club’s MultiChoice Diski Challenge team enjoyed a superb campaign and were top of the standings before COVID-19 resulted in the season being called off.
This season alone, The Students have promoted 10 players from their Multichoice Diski Challenge team. The MDC is a 16-team development League – a partnership between major satellite TV service in Sub-Saharan Africa, Multichoice, and the PSL – which is aimed at fast-tracking the development of young players into the PSL league.
Wits have done well in the League with the duo of Rowan Human and Solly Khunyedi having come through from it to turn out for the club’s first team this season.
The Clever Boys also promoted Lisakhanya Mlonyeni, Mpho Mathebula, Cuwen Prince, Kabelo Makola, Janovane September, Deon Horn and Malik Mashinini, an indication that they could still excel in the lower Leagues and return to topflight in the next couple of seasons.
Wits have been highly competitive as a top three top-flight team in five of their last six seasons. They won the 2016-17 Premiership title.
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By Mthokozisi Dube