Fans of the Discovery Walter Sisulu Soccer Challenge have on Saturday witnessed one of the most remarkable stories since the inception of the tournament 17 years ago.
Against all odds, an U17 team from KwaZulu Natal, Amabutho FC, shocked all and sundry by winning their match 2-0 against Pimville United FC playing with nine players from the first minute, including their goalkeeper.
Incredibly, they finished the match at Nike Football Training Centre in Soweto with just eight players!
In fact, Amabutho’s story reads like some fairytale…
The Edendale-based, Pietermaritzburg, outfit only arrived in Johannesburg in the early hours of Saturday by taxi – a trip that lasted eight hours on the road and immediately rushed over to the ground.
They didn’t even warm up before the match!
“We arrived this morning and the boys didn’t even rest,” explains assistant coach, Luthando Ngcobo, who’s 23 and had to quit the game after injuring his shoulder playing as a goalkeeper.
“We went from the taxi straight to the field. We didn’t warm up.”
Sadly, Amabutho didn’t even play in their own kit!
“We were lucky to have our home boys, J Stars. They are also from Maritzburg and play on Sunday (against Lakeside Future Stars). So we borrowed their jersey,” says Ngcobo, who serves under Amabutho head coach, Lindelani Zondi.
From the coaching front, Ngcobo also looks up to Orlando Pirates head coach Rulani Mokwena, as well as Jose Mourinho of Tottenham Hotspur, which would explain some of the tactical decisions by Amabutho’s technical team to survive in the match.
“We told our players to get behind the ball and in attack, we used two players to bring their fullbacks inside to connect with our lone striker. It was a big compromise in many ways, because even the player who scored our goal, we changed him centre-back to play as a striker,” Ngcobo says.
The result will undoubtedly go down as one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Discovery Walter Sisulu Soccer Challenge.
“What we’ve been through to get here is all worth it. It’s an opportunity for the boys to see how football is played outside of Maritzburg,” Ngcobo concludes.
Amabutho will find out on Sunday who they play next when the fixtures are released.
For now they will retreat to the back room they are renting in Pimville to get a well deserved rest following their their heroics on Day Seven of the tournament that runs until December 29.