Alex football celebrated Youth Day with a scintillating spectacle of football in the juniors’ finals of the annual Maimane Alfred Phiri Games (Map Games) at the Number 3 Square Grounds.
The finals, which pitted the U13, U15, U17 and U20 divisions of the Alexandra Northrand Local Football Association were dominated by one of the big cats, Alex Royal Tigers SC, who were crowned new champions of the U13 division and also defended their crown in the U15 division.
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Tigers’ U13 team dethroned the reigning champions Love Reaching Community FC (LRC), in a repeat of last year’s final which had tongues wagging the whole week as to who was really the emerging kings of Alex football. And Tigers founder and coach Thembinkosi ‘Tiger’ Matholengwe (24) believes that question has been answered once and for all with the dominance of his two teams in the finals, and all other of his club’s divisions reaching the semis of this prestigious Alex tournament.
Tigers goalie Katlego Banele Maple from Booysens keeps his team in the game by making one of several brilliant saves. Photo: Sipho Siso
The U13 Tigers team are still a work-in-progress as they were a bit disjointed and often lost the ball, compared to their LRC counterparts who exhibited mature football and strung a number of passes together and overall enjoyed superior possession.
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This was not unexpected as LRC has been together as a unit for the past two years, whereas Tigers’ boys were all promoted to the U15 division en masse and a fresh squad for the U13s had to be established.
But results in football do not necessarily depend on how exceptionally well you play but by how many times you rattle the back of the net which is what the U13 big cats did in their 2–1 win. Both Tigers goals came from the boot of Lethabo ‘The General’ Chiloane, one in each half, with LRC’s goal scored by the dependable Daddy Makafola, who had been doing it for his team throughout the tournament.
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LRC coach Bandile Thindleni was full of praise for his tearful boys. “The boys played well, showed character and courage but it was not our day. They were the better side on the pitch but not by the scoreline,” Thindleni said.
He lamented the fact they couldn’t translate all their possession into goals but was confident they would be back next year with more vigour and determination.
Matholengwe was basking in the glory of winning a trophy he believes the boys should have won last year.
“It’s happened finally – we’re now champions,” he said.
“We have dominated the finals of this competition for the past three years. We have also
been champions of the local league for the past three years in a row. What more can we ask for?” said Matholengwe, whose surname means tiger cubs.