Congratulations to Eastern Cape-based side Bizana Pondo Chiefs who demonstrated a burning desire that one can triumph over adversity by lifting the 2020 Motsepe League Play-offs trophy in a mini-league tournament held at the Vaal University of Technology from 9-14.
Nine provincial winners took on one another in groups of three to decide the two finalists who will be promoted to the GladAfrica Championships next season.
Bizana’s desire to conquer is perhaps driven by their community’s underprivileged background in a society muddled with high levels of youth unemployment, school dropouts and heavy drug addiction.
Due to this, the team’s make up of mostly youth players find solace in the hope that football can offer them an escape route from poverty and a better life for their families.
Situated on the south coast along the border between Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape just outside Port Edward, the few luxuries that locals get to enjoy include a rare chance to visit Margate in Port Shepstone.
According to the club’s general manager Loyiso Mjokweni, life in this rural area is like living in a dog-eat-dog world where survival is only reserved for the toughest.
“Like most people in Bizana, our players wake up to eating pap with tea for breakfast instead of cereals and also scrape on left-overs from the previous night’s dinner. And to add to that, there are no recreational facilities to engage the youth, let alone decent footballing fields, which makes us wonder where we are going to host our local GladAfrica Championship matches next season”, said Mjokweni.
However, it is not all doom and gloom in Bizana as the economy is driven by the Margate tourist attractions and the nearby gold mines which offer a degree of employment for locals. The place is also the origin of famous struggle icons such as Winnie Madikizela Mandela and Oliver Tambo.
The club was formed in 2015 with the aim of contesting in the paying ranks within a period of five years. After spending two seasons in the SAB League and gaining promotion to the ABC Motsepe League in 2017, the 2019/20 season was third time lucky for the club.
They ended the season at number four in the league during their maiden appearance in 2018; finished runners-up to Tornado FC in 2019 and of course bagged the EC title in 2020.
Under the guidance of former Chippa United FC goalkeeper Tsepo Motsoeneng, the team had to rely on their mentor’s Premier Soccer League experience to stay focussed and persevere to attain an unbelievable expectation.
With no sponsorship attached to the club, the players have been surviving through the sheer generosity of the Chairman, businessman Nkosinathi Mqokiyana, who introduced stipends for players to keep them motivated.
Asked how the R1 million prize money will be shared, Mqokiyana said that after reaching the finals he addressed his players and announced that considering that he had already spent in excess of R700 000 to prepare the team for the playoffs, should they win the finals half of the winnings will be shared by the players, a message that seemed to have resonated the magic as they went on to lift the coveted trophy.
While the story of Bizana reads like a rags-to-riches fairy tale, the opposite is true when looking at their final match opponents Pretoria Callies FC.
Nestled in Atteridgeville under the city of Tshwane, a place with relatively good football facilities as compared to Bizana’s, Callies’ undying determination to restore the glorious history of the once famous outfit was the inspiration that got them promotion to the GladAfrica Championships.
Records sourced out from the then Eastern Province Herald, dated 23 April 1898, show that Callies remains the oldest club in the country. However, the club has been marred by interruptions ranging from ethnic wars to internal leadership conflicts since its inception, a supposedly generational curse that club chairman Moses Malada intends to break.
According to Malada, there was a pressing need to restore the club to its former glory.
“We must all remember that Callies is an old club that used to campaign in the same space with Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs from as far back as the 1970’s. It was therefore imperative that we work towards gaining back the glory that attracted the likes of former player and Tshwane football legend Lucas “Masterpieces” Moripe to play for the club”, said the chairman.
Under the tutelage of distinguished traveller Sammy Troughton, Callies attained a 100% winning record in the tournament before booking their place in the final and as a result automatically gaining promotion to The GladAfrica Championships next season.
Some of the tried-and-tested players that Troughton relied on include former Supersport United FC striker and the tournament’s top goal-scorer with three strikes, Thabiso Nkoana, as well as Edwin Sitayitayi who has tasted PSL action with Kaizer Chiefs and Highlands Park FC.
For their effort, Callies walked away with the R500 000 second prize consolation cheque. The team management could not divulge how they were going to disburse the winnings among the players.
The Road To The Final
Match 1: Pretoria Callies 1 Zizwe United 0
Match 2: Mangaung Unite 1 Bizana Pondo Chiefs 2
Match 3: Umvothi FC 1 Hungry Lions 0
Match 4: Bizana Pondo Chiefs 1 Mikhado FC 0
Match 5: Hungry Lions 2 FC Mpumalanga United FC 1
Match 6: Zizwe United 2 Plokwane City Rovers 1
Match 7: FC Mpumalanga United FC 2 Umvothi FC 3
Match 8: Polokwane City Rovers 0 Pretoria Callies 1
Match 9: Mikhado FC 1 Mangaung Unite 3
Match 10: Semi-Final 1: Pretoria Callies 3 Mangaung Unite 1
Match 11: Semi-Final 2: Bizana Pondo Chiefs 4/penalties Umvothi FC 3/penalties. 0-0 full time
Match 12: Final: Bizana Pondo Chiefs 4/penalties Pretoria Callies 3 penalties-1-1 full time score