Limpopo will have six teams in the GladAfrica Championship next season, after Magesi FC reached the final of the ABC Motsepe League play-offs in Potchefstroom, North West, to clinch automatic promotion to the NFD.
Magesi will be joined in the professional ranks by Gauteng-based MM Platinum (popularly known as La Masia) after the two sides prevailed in their semifinals on Friday.
READ: The Jewel of La Masia
Having reached the final, the two sides will fill the vacant spots left by Jomo Cosmos and TS Sporting, who were relegated to the third-tier league.
With their promotion sealed, Magesi and Platinum will square off for the R1 million grand prize at Olën Park Stadium in Potchefstroom this afternoon.
The match is the culmination of the national play-offs that were contested by nine champions, each of whom had won their respective Motsepe League provincial titles.
Magesi and MM Platinum saw off a challenge from Zizwe United (Western Cape), Real Madrid (Northern Cape), Spear of the Nation (Eastern Cape), Mpumalanga’s Bayern FC, KwaZulu-Natal champions Summerfield Dynamos and North West University.
TS Sporting’s relegation spells the end of Mpumalanga representation in the professional ranks.
Magesi’s promotion swelled the number of Limpopo teams in the first division from four to six, after Baroka’s relegation from the premiership last month.
The full line-up of sides from the north also includes Black Leopards, Polokwane City, Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila and Venda Football Academy.
Baroka’s relegation left Limpopo with only Marumo Gallants and Sekhukhune United as the province’s representatives in the premiership.
READ: Life goes on at Baroka village
It must be noted, however, that Sekhukhune United train in Gauteng, where they are based, but Babina Noko had Tembisa township’s Makhulong Stadium and Johannesburg’s Ellis Park as their home grounds.
Sekhukhune are believed to be considering playing their matches in Polokwane next season.
Having eight PSL clubs – six in the NFD and two in the premier division – in one province close to each other means less travelling for Limpopo sides.
On the flip side, there will be plenty of incoming traffic, which will have positive economic spin-offs for the province.
With six teams out of 16, it will be embarrassing for Limpopo if none of its teams mounts a serious challenge for premiership promotion next season.
Despite Cosmos’ relegation, Gauteng will remain with four clubs, as Johannesburg-based MM Platinum join Tshwane sides Pretoria Callies, University of Pretoria (AmaTuks) and JDR Stars.
READ: Jomo Cosmos’ date with destiny as likely demotion to ABC Motsepe League beckons
KwaZulu-Natal may be rejoicing in the fact that the province will have five teams in the premiership next season after Richards Bay’s promotion. The Natal Rich Boyz join AmaZulu, Lamontville Golden Arrows, Maritzburg United and Royal AM in the money-spinning DStv Premiership. But the province is left with only Uthongathi FC in the GladAfrica Championship.
The other provinces with a single representative in the NFD will be the Free State (Free State Stars), the Northern Cape (Hungry Lions) and North West (Platinum City Rovers).
Meanwhile, Magesi, established in 2011, are no strangers to NFD football. They were crowned Limpopo ABC Motsepe League champions and subsequently promoted alongside Kings United in 2016.
However, Magesi lasted just one season in the NSL ranks, as they were relegated to the gutter in 2017, while Kings United finished 11th that season.
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The only top-flight player in the Magesi ranks is former Bafana Bafana and Mamelodi Sundowns defender Elias Ngoepe, whose extensive PSL experience comes from having turned out for Bloemfontein Celtic, Platinum Stars and Maritzburg United.
The Moletjie-based club is coached by ex-Zulu Royals striker Jackie Ledwaba, the same coach who was at the helm when Magesi was first promoted to the NFD in 2016. Ledwaba finished as the PSL’s top goal-scorer, with 14 goals for Royal in the 2002/03 season.
On the other hand, MM Platinum are coached by former Bafana and Swallows defender Ashraf Hendricks and have former Jomo Cosmos and Mpumalanga Black Aces veteran midfielder Bethuel Tukane as their talisman.
Former Maritzburg United midfielder Sheldon van Wyk is another player with PSL experience who has helped La Masia win the Gauteng as well as the national play-offs.