Prestigious under-17 youth football tournament, the Engen Knockout Challenge is once again set to take Bloemfontein by storm.
The competition has over the years proved a major stepping stone for young players into the professional ranks.
This year’s tournament was launched at the Central University of Technology (CUT )in Bloemfontein on Tuesday. It will take place on July 5-7 at CUT Sports Grounds.
Bloemfontein Celtic Chief Executive Officer Khumbulani Konco, whose team is the hosting this year’s tournament, delivered a keynote address.
Konco said the tournament has long proven its impact in producing quality players for Premier League teams who’ve gone to play for the national team.
While applauding the work done by the tournament since its inception 16 years ago, he also noted a lot more can still be done to grow it.
“Indeed we are in the right direction but we must it a point that we learn from another sporting codes,” he added.
Konco was referring to Graven Week, one of the oldest rugby development programmes in the country.
“We must ensure that this tournament becomes one of the biggest sporting developments in the country,” said Konco.
Taking place in five provinces across South Africa, the tournament will once again feature 16 teams per region going head-to-head.
The draw which took place on Tuesday sees defending champions Virginia Sports Academy doing battle with Bloemfontein Celtic, who have had an impressive run this year, going as far as to play West Ham.
Grey College and Free State Stars are also teams to look out for in this year’s contest.
The Engen Knockout Challenge has given numerous Under 17s the chance to show their sporting talent. Several Bafana Bafana players have come through it, including Thulani Serero, Ronwen Williams, Thuso Phala, and George Maluleka, while a further 57 players who competed in the event are currently playing professional football.
Team’s that will participate are as follows:
Group A: Bloemfontein Celtic, Grassland Raven FC, Seemahale School, Royal Stars.
Group B: Free State Stars, Grey College, Quests FC, Moroka Hostel,
Group C: Virginia Sports Academy, Bayern Munich, Napoli FC, and Junior Birds
Group D: Dikwena Stars, Jameson FC, Lenyora la Thuto School, and Young Future.