THE Free State u.21 men’s football squad let slip a quality chance to permanently keep the national trophy in their cabinet. This comes after they lost by 0-2 to University Sport South Africa (Ussa) in the final of the 2016 South African Breweries u.21 national championship played on Saturday (16/07) at the University of Limpopo in Polokwane. The final between the Free State and Ussa teams ended the weeklong interprovincial tournament held from 9 to 16 July. The Free State team, led by former Bloemfontein Celtic stalwart Ishmael “Litre” Mokitlane, went to this competition as defending champions, having won the trophy twice, consecutively in 2014 and 2015, under Mokitlane’s mentorship. The Free State lads were bound to win the 2016 edition, becoming owners of the prestigious trophy. The dream to make it three in a row looked possible when the Free State boys reached the final undefeated. However, they faltered when it mattered most in the final and this saw Ussa (a team made up of students of different universities) pull a major upset against the favoured Free State lads, who were on the verge of making history by winning the competition for the third time in succession. “It was a game of missed opportunities and we failed to convert most of the chances we created, as opposed to our opponents, who managed to convert chances which came their way,” said Mokitlane. “Overall, I’m impressed with the progress I see, because we had eight players from the 2015 winning squad. Our approach is to build for the future by blending refreshing talent with an experienced crop that also forms the core.”For the effort to reach the final, the Free State took home a silver medal, while Mokitlane was deservedly awarded the coach of the tournament accolade, while central defender Thabiso Mofokeng was player of the tournament.