In its 26th edition of the St John’s junior tournament, 32 teams from across the city battled it out to get their hands on some silverware. And, Camps Bay FC, led by Anees Abbas and assistant coach Waleed Abrahams achieved top honours, by lifting the winners cup.
Camps Bay shot-stopper Ettore Vanti won the goalkeeper of the tournament award and his teammate Gareth Igesund’s seven goals earned him the top goal scorer award.
Devonshire Rovers picked up the fairplay trophy; Strandfontein FC’s Justin Julius received the coach of the tournament trophy; and Owen Barry from Belhar Spurs won the sportsperson of the tournament. Woodlands United won the Bowl trophy and Belhar Spurs clinched the Plate section trophy.
Camps Bay was drawn into Group D alongside the hosts Wynberg St John’s, Grassy Park’s Milano United and Belhar Spurs.
They got off to the perfect start when they beat Milano 2-0 in their opening group game and followed that up with a 1-0 win against Belhar Spurs, before hammering St John’s 5-1 to top their group.
The Camps Bay youngsters impressed onlookers and coaches with their slick passing style, superb first touch and maturity in their play. Their performances at the tournament had supporters chirp that they should replace the Bafana Bafana squad.
While Bafana clawed their way to a 1-1 draw against Burkina Faso in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifier on Saturday evening, the night before, Camps Bay beat last year’s champions Morgenster United 1-0 to be crowned champs of 2016.
Gareth Ingesund, the son of former Bafana Bafana coach, Gordon, scored the winning goal in the final.
“Overal, the final was a fantastic game. The first half we dominated possession and didn’t allow them to play,” said Abbas.
“The boys pressed high up on the park and we had good passages of play with nice combinations up front. And, our back three with our goalkeeper was quite solid.
“Hats off to Morgenster in the second half because you could see they wanted the win. But, our boys played as a unit and that’s what got us the victory,” he said.
The Camps Bay squad featured five under-9 players in their team, one under-8 player and the remainder of the side under-10. Abbas said the core of their team will remain the same when they return next year to defend their title.
Abbas, who also heads up the Legends Soccer School and won the under-10 Dubai Super Cup earlier this year, said that winning the St John’s tournament was a much sweeter victory.
“What makes this tournament really special is that there are teams from various LFAs (Local Football Associations). And, out of all the achievements this year, winning this tournament has been the best one,” said Abbas.
“It was a well organised tournament and a great display of football for youth. There’s a bright future for South African football and we need to hold onto these kids.
“In the Tygerberg LFA we play 8v8 and it took us two weeks to adjust to play 11v11 for the tournament. As the tournament went on we gained momentum and got stronger in the knockout stages,” he said.
Last year, Camps Bay was knocked out in the last-16 when they lost 2-0 to Island Rovers. Abbas said his side was not prepared for the physical battle against some of the toughest juniors in the Mother City, and that his players were more eager to win this time around. After getting through the group stage at this year’s edition, they beat Ashford Athletic 3-0 in the last-16; overcame Greenwood Athletic 4-0; before beating Strandfontein FC 3-1 on penalties following a goalless draw.
“Our toughest game was played early on in the group stages against Belhar Spurs. That was a very physical game and I think it was a step in the right direction for us.
“Strandfontein had a very organised setup as well as Morgenster, but our boys wanted to win this tournament just as much as them.
“We had a big scoreline against Greenwood because we didn’t give them a chance to play. Once we got the first goal we just kept going,” he said.
This season, Camps Bay’s under-12 and under-15 sides reached the knockout finals, and their under-17 Premier League team won the league. And, their under-14 team finished runners-up in the league to Vasco da Gama.
“We only play a league system from under-12 upward at the Tygerberg LFA. Going forward, we’re considering approaching the Mitchell’s Plain LFA to have our youth structure play there,” said Abbas.
“I’ve had a few parents request this, especially with this under-10 group. We feel that Mitchell’s Plain is a very tough league and that will push our boys to become better players,” he said.
This weekend, Camps Bay will look to end their season with more trophies when they compete at the FC Kapstadt junior tournament which starts on Friday October 14 to Sunday October 16, at the Hartleyvale Stadium.