New Generation v Flamengo, Sunday 29th December 2013, 12.30pm

0 - opening shot

Football in the PSL and the National First Division takes a two to three week break over Christmas and New Year and as it is very difficult to find anything out about football games outside of the top two divisions I didn’t hold out much hope of getting to a match during that time. I kept on buying newspapers for the sports coverage though on the off-chance that there might be a brief mention of something going on somewhere and for once I got lucky.

One of the tabloids that tends to specialise in lurid accounts of vigilante action against just about everyone from suspected murderers to those who are late in returning their library books had a write-up in the sports section on the impending finals of three local tournaments. The nearest one to us was in Tembisa and so we headed over to the Makhulong Stadium for Finals Day of the Philly Games.

Local shops for local people.

‘A Local Shop for Local People’

Tembisa is an area best described as dodgy. It’s sufficiently dodgy that I soon received a phone call from the company Security Manager who had been alerted by our tracking device to the possibility of us having been carjacked. I reassured him by mentioning that we were parked next to a Police car although I’m not convinced that my standard retort of “It’s ok, we are at a football match” gave him any additional comfort whatsoever.

Not quite a Zenith Data Systems Final queue.

Not quite a Zenith Data Systems Final queue at the Ticket Office.

There was a small tent next to the stadium selling tickets for the day’s events. General admission was thirty rand, but there were some VIP tickets available for one hundred rand a pop. I had no idea what the additional benefits would be but as it’s not often that we can be VIPs for less than six quid each we treated ourselves.

Even a hundred rand seemed cheap when I looked at the schedule for the day. To kick things off early in the afternoon we had the under fifteen and then the under seventeen finals. These games were followed by the adult mens third and fourth place play-off featuring Amasokolaar against a team called G-String. Yes, really.

The competitive matches were broken up with what I imagined would be a none too serious kickabout between a couple of ‘All-Star‘ teams of ageing former pros before the day concluded with the main event, the men’s final, in which Cheese FC were due to take on Amandla.

We didn’t plan on watching all of the games, not least because it would be dark by the time they had finished and there’s no way I’d want to be in Tembisa in the evening. Anyway, five matches back-to-back is too many even for me.

The VIP Section was somewhere in there.

The VIP Section was somewhere in there.

I had a word with the fella on the gate as we went in and he reckoned that this annual tournament was the only time that the stadium was used these days. I was slightly surprised to hear this as I’d been under the impression that one of the First Division teams, Jomo Cosmos, played some of their fixtures there.

I’d also read that the Makhulong Stadium had been the location for one of the warm up fixtures prior to the 2010 World Cup. North Korea had taken on Nigeria in a game that was notable for a stampede by fans who had panicked at the prospect of the free-admission game filling up and closing its doors.

It was all a lot more leisurely on this occasion though with only a couple of hundred people dotted around the ground so early in proceedings.

The view from the far side.

The view from the far side.

We didn‘t bother initially with the bit where the VIPs go, but had a walk around to the opposite stand instead. There were a few stalls selling food and drink, some of which were well-stocked with bottles of spirits. I was driving so turned down the frequent offers of a whisky or rum, but it gave me an inkling  that it might all get lively as the day went on.

Where the posh people sit.

Where the posh people sit.

After a while we made our way across to the VIP section to watch the remainder of the Under-15 final. Our hundred rand tickets gave us the benefit of an indoor bar and separate outdoor seating. We could have taken chairs outside but we chose to just sit on the upper step of the terracing instead.

New Generation, in white, seemed to have much bigger players and scored a couple of early goals before Flamengo, in green, reduced the deficit just before half-time.

The outstanding footballer on the pitch was Flamengo‘s number ten who, despite being half the size of some of his opponents, had by far the best touch. Unfortunately his efforts were undermined by his centre halves who tended to toe-bop the ball as hard as they could in the general direction of ‘far away’.

A third goal from New Generation towards the end clinched victory and sparked dancing to suggest that their name had been chosen with one eye on boy-band careers.

And an action shot to finish.

And an action shot to finish.

We stayed long enough to watch the first half of the Under 17 final before making a move. The crowd had started to grow a bit and it seemed sensible to quit whilst we ahead. We chatted to a copper on the way out who was surprised, yet pleased, to see us there. It seems that very few people from out of town have much interest in the Philly Games.

We were equally surprised and pleased to see that our car was exactly where we’d left it.

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