The 2018 Engen Knockout Challenge will be hosted by Grey College in Bloemfontein next month for the 12th year in succession and if the draw is anything to go by, pulsating football will be on the cards.
The draw was made last month for the first time in a very long time, it was evenly balanced across the four groups.
As we have become accustomed to in the past, there tends to be a group of death, however, this year there is no such thing.
Group B, which will feature among the multiple champions, Virginia Sport Academy, and the youth side of the Premier Soccer League club, Bloemfontein Celtic, is certainly a tough group, however, it is very hard to say which is the toughest.
Group A for the highly popular tournament comprises Botshabelo Roo Stars FC, the ever impressive Brebner High School, Action Spar FC and Questus FC.
Hosdisa Technical High School and Royal Stars join Virginia and Celtic in the Group B.
Group C may well prove to be very interesting indeed with the hosts Grey as well as Navalsig High School, Bayern Munich FC and Thota Gauta Secondary.
Group D is anybody’s for the taking – Jumentro FC, HTS Louis Botha, Junior Cosmos FC and the Northern Cape side, Uptown Football Academy.
The tournament director, Ludwig Koekemoer, told Voice that with the teams having to qualify nothing less than a competitive tournament is expected, but Group B will most certainly be cracking.
“In my opinion I think that Group B is going to be the toughest – some of the teams like Virginia and Royal Stars have faced each other before and they are going to be competitive.
“We do have a local with Celtic. I’ve seen them play recently and I have never seen them playing as well as they are at the moment. They participated in the qualifiers and boy, was I impressed by them.
“It is going to be tough group, but because of the process that we are following now with teams having to qualify for this event, there is no outright winner.
“As we saw with Roo Stars a couple of years ago, nobody expected them to represent the Free State at the national tournament, but they did. This is because of the commitment of the players, the will to win, and the technical ability of the coaches.
“From what I have seen through the qualifying processes, is that there has been a tremendous upliftment of the coaches in the sense that they are more technically astute. The teams know what to expect, they play according to certain structures, where as in the past it was turn up and play. I don’t think that this is the case anymore.”
The 2018 Engen Knockout Challenge will be played from 20-22 July.
Group A – Action Spar FC, Botshabelo Roo Stars FC, Brebner High School, Questus FC.
Group B – Bloemfontein Celtic, Hosdisa Technical High School, Royal Stars, Virginia Sports Academy.
Group C – Bayern Munich FC, Grey College, Navalsig high School, Thota Gauta Secondary.
Group D – Jumentro FC, Junior Cosmos FC, HTS Louis Botha, Uptown Football Academy. – MORGAN PIEK