UFH - Football - Mayozi Tournament - Thembela Tangana and Athenkosi Jezi

Fort Hare’s excellent run in this year’s Mazoyi football tournament in Alice bodes extremely well for the future.

Despite losing to Santos in last weekend’s semi-final, coach Mongile Nyosana is thrilled that his young charges have shown so much maturity.

Ten of his players are only in their first year of studies, so to make it all the way to the knockout stages of the 32-team men’s competition speaks volumes about their potential.

On Saturday they will take on Young Attackers in the playoff for third and fourth place in what promises to be a mouth-watering culmination to their campaign.

“Defensively we have done very well,” Nyosana said. “This is despite us sometimes not having players available because they were writing tests.”

Compared to previous years when defeat came all too easily, the current squad is imbued with a spirit of resilience and tackles each game with a positive mindset.

“This team really doesn’t like to lose, and I would say we have a winning mentality now. A lot of the teams we play against are semi-professional, so for us to match them shows we have a lot of fight in us,” Nyosana said.

UFH - Football - Mayozi Tournament - Thembela Tangana and Athenkosi Jezi

Fort Hare young guns Thembela Tangana, left, and Athenkosi Jezi have been pivotal to their team’s success in the Mazoyi tournament in Alice this year. Photo: Supplied

And plenty of this fight would be on display against Young Attackers on Saturday, he said.

Some members of the opposition will hardly be strangers to the students, as some of them play for the university but have been on loan to Young Attackers this season.

“I’ve played for them myself. They are a good team, a passing team,” Nyosana said.

“But fitness is where we could have the advantage. If we maintain in the first half, we might overwhelm them in the second because our physical strength and endurance are better.”

Playing in front of their home fans at the campus grounds would also give them an advantage, he said. Fort Hare supporters always came out in large numbers and he expected much of the same this weekend.

“I think that’s because we play a beautiful brand of football. You wouldn’t say that we are like a small university team.”

Nyosana has proved a valuable asset to the team. Starting out as a kit manager in 2016, he has learnt every aspect of the university’s approach to soccer and what needs to be done to win trophies.

In fact, such is his knowledge of the club that it was the players themselves who chose him to be their coach.

“I was here during the downfalls, the struggles, the tribulations. The players appreciate that, which is why they chose me, assistant coach Luvo Mbanjana and manager Ndzolo Malgas.

“They said they wanted us to change the team. And here we are, we changed it.”

While “things happen in football”, Nyosana is certainly looking forward to what the next few years will bring.

The foundation he has laid alongside the management team and current crop of players is solid and no one would bet against them going all the way in next year’s Mazoyi tournament – least of all Nyosana himself.

“We are a podium team,” he said.