Roo Stars became the U17 2016 Engen Knockout Challenge winners after defeating defending champions, Virginia Sports Academy, 5-3 on penalties following a goalless draw in the final at the Grey College Sports Complex in Bloemfontein on Sunday.
Action Spar came third in the competition after beating Bloemfontein Celtic U17 on penalties in the third and fourth place playoff.
Roo Stars head coach, Tshediso Goeieman, faced his former coach, Pitso Mokoena, who won the same competition with Goeieman as one of his star players for then Harmony Sports Academy (current Virginia Sport Academy) in 2008.
The 25-year-old Goeieman said it was a special and exciting win for his young crop of players.
“I’m very happy winning this tournament because we’ve been coming here for a few years and have not been able to win it,” he said.
The elated coach also added that preparations for the last 16 were not easy.
“Preparation for the tournament was not easy. Some of the players went away for the holidays, while others were injured. But we managed to prepare well in the end,” he said.
The Botshabelo-based outfit will represent the Free State in the 2016 Engen Champ of Champs U17 tournament later this year, where they will go up against regional winners from all across the country.
Virginia head coach, Pitso Mokoena, didn’t seem too upset with the loss, saying that sometimes losing is part of the game.
“With the history I have with the Engen tournament, I’m very happy. It’s one of the best tournaments in the country. Right now I’ve got two boys who are playing in the national team for the under-20s and one player who is currently in Mauritius with the under-17 national side.”
Mokoena wished his former player well and said his side would begin preparing for the next tournament this week.
Santos Football Club legend, Duncan Crowie, has become synonymous with the competition and he was one of the notable faces among the present football dignitaries, supporters, sponsors as well as football scouts (from Bloemfontein Celtic, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns).
Crowie said the Engen Knockout Challenge is important in the development of youngsters.
He added that it allows coaches as well as players to see how they fare against their peers.
According to him, progress or regress in the competition allows them to identify their own strengths and weaknesses in order to further their careers into the professional environment.
Crowie also offered a few words of wisdom to the teenage footballers, closing off by saying, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard enough.”
Despite the loss in the final, Virginia midfielder, Tumisang Thipe, received the Player of the Tournament as well as the Midfielder of the Tournament award for his individual brilliance throughout the 3 days in which the competition took place.
Celtic U17 striker, Thato Salemane, received the Striker of the Tournament award and he also shared the golden boot with Oratile Mothibede from Louis Botha after both players scored 5 apiece.
List of awards:
Referee of the Tournament: Rethabile Mokgele
Defender of the Tournament: Lebohang Salomane (Roo Stars)
Midfielder of the Tournament: Tumisang Thipe (Virginia Sports Academy)
Striker of the Tournament: Thato Salemane (Bloemfontein Celtic U17)
Top Goal Scorer(s) of the Tournament: Oratile Mothibede (HTS Louis Botha); Thato Salemane (Bloemfontein Celtic U17)
Goalkeeper of the Tournament: Lerato Ranthimo (Brebner)
Coach of the Tournament: Modise Ikaneng (Action Spar)
Fairplay team of the Tournament: Brebner
Player of the Tournament: Tumisang Thipe (Virginia Sports Academy)
– Moeketsi Mogotsi/Courant News