It’s been called Mpumalanga’s greatest soccer tournament and there’s no doubt that the Selati Cup has had a lasting legacy on the communities that reside there.
The tournament was started 13 years ago by Selati as a way to bring camaraderie, entertainment and joy to the people of Mpumalanga, many of whom also work for Selati Sugar in the area.
Since then the tournament has grown to become an annual highlight that brings out crowds of over 15 000 and is celebrated as a grassroots soccer breeding ground where scouts from the national teams come in search of fresh talent.
Enocent Mkhabela, Velile Zitha, Mpho Mbebe, Jabulani Dladla and Ludick Mkhatshwa all found their way onto the national stage thanks to the Selati Cup.
Enocent Mkhabela is a 28-year-old midfielder, famous for his debut in the PSL for Platinum Stars in 2011. His star potential was discovered back in 2005 while playing for local team Santos during the Selati Cup. Mkhabela went on to play for South African team Kaizer Chiefs in 2016, and has later returned to
the Platinum Stars working under coach Calvin Johnson.
Mkhabela is a Nelspruit-born footballer and he recalls the impact the encouragement and community support the players received while participating
in the Cup. Speaking on the memory of his team losing the semi-finals to the Bluebirds Mkahbela said: “The Selati Cup prepared me mentally to play in front of more than 300 fans and to play under pressure, especially when the supporters are not on your side."
It was the Selati Cup experience that taught him to never give up and keep on persevering through every obstacle. When asked if he thinks the Mpumalanga community has benefited from the Cup, he agreed wholeheartedly. “It keeps them busy and doing bad things in the streets.”
Mkhabela encourages all aspiring Selati Cup players to stay disciplined, determined, humble and to play every game like it’s a cup final. “You never know who will be watching you.”
Before he became known as Free State Stars attacker, Thapelo Mkhatshwa made his Selati Cup debut at the tender age of 16 playing for the Langeloop Junior Pirates in 2007. Mkhatshwa climbed his way to the top 8 with his team, Mawewe Chiefs.
The Selati Cup experience made deep and meaningful impression on him during his formative years. He attributes his talent development from being a part of the Selati Cup at such a young age. He shared his simple formula for any aspiring diski players: “They should enjoy their talent and respect the game.”
Ludick Mkhatshwa was also scouted by Free State Stars following an impressive performance in the Selati Cup and believes that the Selati Cup opens doors for young players like himself and helps them to break into the professional football industry.
Since the 2018 Selati Cup kick off, the legends of tomorrow have already began showing off their skills on the field, and this could be the year that the next Lucas Radebe will be discovered.
All the Selati Cup action will come to a thrilling close this Sunday when tournament favourites Naas Academy will face underdogs Boschfontein FC in the final showdown at the newly revamped KaMhlushwa Stadium.
* Follow the new Selati Cup Facebook page to catch all the action!