The last 32 round of the Nedbank Cup took place at the weekend. It’s the nearest thing in South African football to the Third Round of the FA Cup in England, I suppose, in as much as it’s the stage of the competition when the big boys from the PSL join the sixteen lower division sides that remain in the competition.
I’m not entirely sure what format the competition takes in the earlier rounds but the sixteen non-PSL sides were made up of eight from the First Division, six from the Second Division and two representatives of the fourth tier South African Breweries League.
I’d rather have watched a game with a fourth tier side in it but there wasn’t one anywhere near us and so it was Gauteng Second Division side AmaBEE’s home tie against top tier Bidvest Wits that we went along to.
Jen and I were staying at a lodge which was about an hours drive from the Sinaba Stadium at Daveyton where the game was taking place. We’d been for a hike that morning and spotted the best selection of wildlife that we’ve seen so far over here.
As well as the fairly common zebra and wildebeest and the somewhat less common warthog and blesbok, we got decent views of monkeys doing monkey stuff and then got to within about twenty yards of some giraffe.
Incidentally we’d seen some lamps made of giraffe legs in a shop recently. I don’t think they would have fitted in a suitcase though and so we had to pass on them.
After lunch we headed off to Daveyton. It’s not the roughest place we’ve driven through, but I still wouldn’t fancy being there after dark. AmaBEE, which is pronounced Ama Bee Eee Eee, in the style of Juninhee Ohh Ohh Ohh, normally play their games in the equally ropey Tembisa area. Unfortunately the stadium that they had planned to use was in demand for an ANC rally and there was only going to be one winner in that clash of bookings.
We arrived at the Sinaba Stadium an hour or so early and after parking as close to the turnstiles as we could without actually blocking them, we had a look at a match taking place on a pitch nearby. The standard wasn‘t very high, with no nets, linesman and the odd player in shorts or socks that didn’t match the rest of his team, but there were quite a few people taking a keen interest in the proceedings.
The pitch that they were trying to play on might very well have been the worst I’ve ever seen outside of a kick-around in a car park full of pot-holes. I suspect that there had once been some grass in the vicinity, but it was long gone and the game was taking place on what now looked like a dried up lake. Not surprisingly we didn’t see any slide tackles.
Despite having plenty of time to spare we didn’t hang about for too long outside and soon made our way inside the Sinaba Stadium. I’d guess that it could accommodate around ten thousand fans in four separate concrete stands, once of which has a roof and a VIP section with actual seats. We only had the basic forty rand general admission tickets and so the best we could do was to find an area where the main stand roof provided a bit of shade for the cheap seats.
By the time we got around to kick-off I’d estimate that there were close to two hundred people watching. Initially I thought most people were supporting the home side, but I eventually concluded that the majority were neutrals, happy to applaud a bit of skill or laugh at the errors made. The most animated that the crowd got was when one of the linesmen dropped his flag during a particularly vigorous bout of waving. I think that for a couple of the blokes near us that one incident will have justified the ticket price by itself.
In the first half it was difficult to say which team was from the Premier League and which was from two divisions below. Bidvest had one player, Matthew Booth, who stood out from the rest of his team mates on account of being white, bald and around a foot taller than anyone else. He also looked around twice the age of the other players as he hung around at the back, a good five yards deeper than the opposing strikers, perhaps as a concession to his advancing years.
Eventually I twigged who it was that he reminded me of, it was the PE teacher that Brian Glover played in Kes. Although I think that Mr. Booth was probably imagining himself as Jack Charlton rather than Bobby.
Neither side managed a goal in the first half, the nearest that we got was a decent effort from AmaBEE striker Cele who steered his header onto the post just before the break. I nipped across to the other side of the stadium for sausage and chips and had to contend with a concerned woman in the tea hut who was so worried by my turning down of the accompanying salad that she invited me into the kiosk to check that I wasn’t soft in the head.
Bidvest Wits took the lead ten minutes into the second half when Getaneh managed a quite Bergkampesque turn inside the six yard box to throw off two defenders before poking the ball home. By this time the crowd had swelled to around four hundred and most seemed pleased by the goal regardless of which team had scored it.
AmaBEE weren’t ever out of it though, or at least they weren’t until the last minute of normal time when Langwe’s shot from the edge of the box sneaked in at the far post and clinched Bidvest Wit’s place in the last sixteen of the competition.