Local tourney draws big numbers

2008-03-13 00:00

Northdale Stadium will host the biggest amateur soccer tournament the country has ever seen, starting this weekend.

It is the 32nd Easter tournament hosted by Padsa (Pietermaritzburg and District Soccer Association). The tournament will kick off this weekend and continue over all four days of the Easter weekend.

Competing for a grand prize of R100 000 are 112 teams from across the country, in senior and junior (U12 to U19) divisions.

One of the organisers, Joe Gengan, said the grand prize back in 1972 was R300.

Deputy Mayor Mervin Dirks said: "Amateur teams have never played for such a lot of money".

The Msunduzi Municipality are the biggest sponsors, contributing R200 000, after spending R300 000 to renovate soccer grounds and facilities.

"We feel that it is money well spent," said Dirks. He said Padsa has persevered through the years, despite lack of finances and the hardships of apartheid.

During the apartheid era, teams of all races played in the tournament, but after the democratic elections, when black teams were allowed to play in other leagues, they faced a dip in numbers.

Dirks said: "When you go past the stadiums, they are packed with youth from communities coming to support practices and matches".

This is the first year that the municipality has invested in the tournament. Teams from Johannesburg, Kimberley, Durban and Pietermaritzburg will be playing, but Dirks hopes that with continued sponsorship in years to come, players from Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and East London will also be able to travel to compete.

Gengan said they are expecting 20 000 spectators a day and will charge R5 entry per day.

"Spectators can expect a nice carnival atmosphere. There will be food stalls, clothing stalls and games. We will also provide adequate sanitary facilities," he said.

Sponsorship of the event comes to about R450 000 in cash, kit and refreshments. Besides Msunduzi Municipality, sponsors include the Sports and Recreation Department, Crerars, ICE Sports promotions, New Holmes hotel and E-tech Electrical.

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