Highlands Park lose out in Nedbank Cup - without losing

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Highlands Park (PA)
Highlands Park (PA)

It's a case of "losing without losing" for Highlands Park after the club who last year sold their PSL League franchise have been deprived of making a statement that they are already on the comeback trail in the current season's Nedbank Cup - with co-chairperson Brad Kaftel far from happy by the turn of events..

The team who are known as "The Lions of the North" and have already progressed from the Castle League, effectively the fourth division of South African professional soccer, to the third-tier Motsepe League, had hoped to make a further statement of intent in the coming Nedbank Cup.

But Highlands' objective has been torpedoed by SAFA's decision to withdraw their eight clubs from the last 32 round of the Nedbank Cup - in which 2020 winners Mamelodi Sundowns are the current holders - in line with South African soccer's controlling body's decision to halt all competitions under their aegis because of the escalating coronavirus pandemic.

Consequently, the last 32 round of the Nedbank Cup, whose draw was made last week, will consist of the 16 DStv Premiership teams and the Glad Africa second division allocation increased from eight to 16, with the standard eight SAFA clubs withdrawn.

"I can understand SAFA halting their Leagues because of the virus pandemic," says Kaftel, "because many of the clubs competing in their competitions are unable to meet the strict present safety conditions imposed by the government.

"But Highlands," added Kaftel, ''are, like some of the other clubs in the Motsepe Leagues, operating on a semi-professional basis and as such will be able to provide the same safety guarantees as their professional counterparts in the PSL.

"Instead of a blanket withdrawal of all SAFA clubs from the Nedbank Cup," suggested the Highlands co-chairperson, "Motsepe League clubs who can provide the guarantees should still have been able to compete.''

Kaftel said Highlands, a club with a renowned record in cup competitions, having won the old NFL Cup on six occasions and only lost a dramatic, replayed Mainstay Cup final against Kaizer Chiefs in 1979, had been looking forward to pitting their present team with those from the DStv Championship and the GladAfrica League in the Nedbank Cup - "and maybe causing a couple of surprises."

Now, the feature of the last 32 Nedbank Cup round will be the four games in which DStv Premiership clubs will be pitted against each other, namely those in which the holders, Sundowns, will face Stellenbosch FC; the derby in which Golden Arrows face AmaZulu; Cape Town City pitted against last year's beaten finalists, Bloemfontein Celtic, and SuperSport United against Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila FC.

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