On the 14th of October Young Bafana played in the U/18 Coke Cup final against Hout Bay FC at the Athlone Stadium. The team met up at 07:45 so that we could have breakfast together and build the team spirit heading to the game in the afternoon.
We spent over an hour at Avendale Clubhouse, allowing the boys some time to themselves while also allowing the physiotherapist to evaluate any injuries before the match. Despite the evident excitement, I could sense the nervous energy running throughout the team and I tried to play down the occasion so that the players could relax and calm their nerves.
By 09:30 we were at the match venue and proceeded to our designated change room. We through the pre-match routines as one of the tournament’s convenors ran the pre-match check-ups check before we could head for the warmup. From there you could see that the players were in awe of the iconic World Cup 2010 training venue.
As we were changing, I told them what was expected of them. I asked them to be a role model to all the Young Bafana players as the boys throughout the Academy are hoping that one day when they are U/18’s, they are also given an opportunity to play at a stadium like Athlone. I named my starting line-up and then allowed them to finish kitting and head out the tunnels for the warm up.
We walked out to humbling cheers from the Young Bafana supporters who were already seated in the stands. The boys were buzzing although still extremely nervous as we continued our warm up as normal. After the warm up we went back inside and my focus from there was now to get them pscyched up for the occasion ahead as we were now a few minutes away from kick off.
The match started and early on we dominated possession as we found it easy to play out of their press. Hout Bay however were willing to fight hard and they grew in confidence throughout the match. They played a more direct brand of football while we looked to keep possession. Despite the processional dominance, we didn’t play at the tempo I expected us to play as the field slowed down our build up and combination play making it easy for the opposition to put pressure on us as we got into their half. We also gave possession away quite a lot in the midfield, an area that they were very aggressive in.
I made a few changes to try an influence the match as both sides still had an equal chance of winning until this point. But with five minutes remaining on the clock, Hout Bay scored against the run of play as they stole the ball up from our attack and got forward immediately before putting the ball in the back of the net. In response, I made two more changes to and altered the formation to a fully attacking one but Hout Bay on to the lead and were eventually the deserve winners.
I was an extremely disappointed coach at the loss, and disappointment ran throughout the team veins as they questioned their own efforts that they’d put into the game. However one of the most important things was the opportunity given to Young Bafana as well as Hout Bay to play on a bigger stage than usual, also allowing some of the boys the opportunity to show enough of their skill as they are hopefully identified as players with the ability to play at a higher level.