Saints and Park United scored all the way as they lifted the senior men’s and women’s trophies at a buzzing Northern Areas Easter Soccer Tournament on Monday.
After defeating Apex 2-0 in the final, Saints pocketed a welcome R25 000. Windvogel All Stars got the better of Glenville in the playoff for third.
Park United took home R5 000 for defeating City Lads 1-0 in the women’s final.
The tournament, regarded as one of Gqeberha’s most prestigious annual sporting events, formed part of the SPAR Splash Festival programme as it celebrated its 50th anniversary in style at the Gelvandale Stadium and surrounding venues.
Northern Areas Football Association (Nafa) public relations officer and tournament director Valentine Brink said they believed it to be one of the oldest soccer festivals in the country.
“I know there is one in Cape Town that has been going for 30 years, but we started in 1973 and have been going strong ever since.”
With 24 men’s and eight women’s teams, supplemented by 2 200 juniors ranging from U10 to U17, this year was arguably the biggest in its history.
Brink explained that they had borrowed the concept from a tournament run by Diablo Callies in Durban which his former club, Blackpool, attended in 1971 and 1972.
Nafa loved the idea and the way it was presented and staged its own in Gqeberha the following year. It attracted 16 sides from all over the Eastern Cape.
Over the years the cost of travelling became a limiting factor for visiting teams but as their numbers diminished the local setups stepped up and the tournament is every bit the success today as it was back then.
The spectators voted with their feet this year as 6 000 passed through the turnstiles every day.
Following the soccer on Good Friday, live performances by various artists at Gelvandale Stadium drew an appreciative crowd of around 10 000 people.
“I believe the two years we lost due to Covid has contributed to its popularity because last year we saw a marked increase in attendance,” said Brink.
“This year there were even more spectators. We were truly blown away by the support.”
He added that it was fantastic to have been able to host so many youngsters over the four days.
“This is the perfect way to give our children something positive to do rather than running around in the streets.”
The organisers hope that the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality will throw its weight behind the Easter Soccer Tournament in the future as it involves a large sector of the community.
“It was very successful,” stated Brink. “But with more support we can make it even better.”