16 January 2018 – Compliments of the season to all football loving fans. The year 2017 dished out some choice action over the calendar year but 2018 is almost certain to top that with some mouth-watering footballing events, none more so than the FIFA World Cup in Russia come June.

However, there are plenty of other tournaments to enjoy and savour, both locally and internationally (particularly across Europe). We have pinpointed some of the major highlights that the beautiful game has to offer over the course of the next twelve months.

On the European front we have the Champions League round of 16 to look forward to in the immediate future as well as the Europa League round of 32. Action resumes in February with all the big guns still in contention for the final in May. Can Real Madrid defend their title and actually claim a trifecta of three wins in a row, as their Spanish compatriots Seville accomplished recently in the Europa League? Their clash with Paris Saint Germain will be one for the ages as will the Chelsea vs Barcelona tie as the battle for quarter-final places heats up.

All major football leagues will also be in full swing as the second half of the regular season takes shape. Can Madrid catch rivals Barcelona in La Liga? Can Manchester City be stopped in the Premier League? Will Jose Mourinho be fired? Exciting times lie ahead!

There are also small matters of the League Cup, FA Cup, Copa del Rey, Coppa Italia, German Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, Copa Libertadores, Super Cups and much more, but one firm standout simply has to be the FIFA World Cup.

The greatest show on earth, the most watched sporting event (even more popular than the Olympic Games) and the tournament that every single footballer dreams of being a part of, kicks off on June 14th in Russia. Can Brazil justify their favourites tag? Can the Germans successfully defend their crown? Only time will tell as this quadrennial showpiece takes centre stage yet again.

Locally there is ton of action to look forward to as well. The PSL never fails to deliver and battles at both ends of the table are already at a knife edge. Can Mamelodi Sundowns really be halted? There is also the Nedbank Cup as well as the NFD, ABC Motsepe, SAB and Sasol Leagues to enjoy.

Our national teams at all levels will all be involved in epic battles, vital qualifiers and key tournaments and fixtures. Bafana as well as Banyana will both be engaged in important AFCON qualifiers while our U20 Women’s team will be vying for FIFA World Cup qualification.

Buckle up, sit back and get those vuvuzelas out of the cobwebs. Exciting times lie ahead. It is going to be a rollercoaster ride!

By Dhirshan Gobind