13 March 2018 – With Nedbank Cup action taking place over this past weekend, it is the perfect time to reflect on exactly what makes this cup tick and why it is so vital to South African football.

The past decade has seen the competition grow form strength-to-strength and entrench itself as the country’s (if not the continent’s) premier local cup competition.

It is the only medium that allows smaller clubs from the South African Football Association (SAFA) to compete with giants from the National First Division (NFD) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL). This welcomed mix of amateur and professional clubs is inherently what makes it so attractive.

Prize money is yet another great facet of the competition. Mere participation results in a club gaining a cool R250 000 while the eventual winner gets no less than a massive R7 000 000.

However, what makes this a truly unique initiative is the ‘David vs Goliath’ match-ups as alluded to above. How often have we seen ‘giant-killing’ by a minnow team over one of the world’s best in the FA Cup in the United Kingdom? Many a rich club have been embarrassed by their less-fancied counterparts.

The Nedbank Cup is no different and this is what brings the crowds in, no matter the venue. This past weekend is a case in point and saw the likes of a pedigreed Amazulu FC going down to Ubuntu Cape Town. Pretoria University (AmaTuks) went all the way to the final in 2009 while having a few notable scalps of their own as a second-tier side, including Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs.

The event allows small teams to dream. It gives them the rare opportunity to gain big financial rewards and hence grow as a club and thus the potential to reach greater heights. Not to mention etching their names into folklore and leaving long lasting legacies. The Cup also seems the quickest way for young, up and coming players to make a name for themselves and get noticed by the ‘big boys’. Amateur coaches also get the chance to test their skills against the best and improve.

Apt examples of opportunities include current ABC Motsepe League Clubs Steenberg United and EC Bees getting the chance to take on PSL teams Baroka FC (semi-finalists in 2011 as a third-tier team) and Mamelodi Sundowns (former African champions) respectively.

The competition is the ultimate fairy-tale idea for lower division clubs. Steve Barker (then coach of the 2009 Pretoria University team), who’s Stellenbosch team recently took on Soweto giants Chiefs, stated before the match: “It is a great opportunity for us as a small club. We are keen to do well against them”.

By: Dhirshan Gobind

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