Ilinge football is on the cusp of something great, but no one wants to get excited just yet.
In December, homegrown team Young Minds FC won the flagship Safa regional league cup competition, the Gwede Mantashe Foundation Cup, adding to the trophy cabinet that already contained the league cup.
Before the season was suspended, Young Minds was third on the log, seven points off number one with two games in hand, yet the team’s coach, Siya Yiweni, remains dismissive of playoffs and promotions talk.
“Seven Stars FC is still in control. We still have tough fixtures. Valgas have experience in winning the league and (Komani) Conquerors are fighting relegation. They will give us a match,” said Yiweni.
The team has, however, emerged as a dark horse with good performances against Seven Stars, MK Academy (ahead of them on the log) and Valgas, placing them in contention for the playoffs.
“We do not fancy it this year, maybe in two years’ time. Right now we do not have the financial muscle to compete in the ABC Motsepe league,” said Yiweni.
The last time an Ilinge team competed in the regional league the now-dissolved New Nation FC competed in the then Vodacom League. Reticent as Yiweni may be, he does believe this crop of players may return soccer in the township to its former stature.
“They know what it takes to win and have the grit to see things through. I was with them for only two sessions before we went to the tournament in December. I am only building on the great work the former coach, Melikhaya Nteletyana, has done,” said Yiweni.
According to the coach, the core of his team is players who, just two years earlier, won the same tournament playing for Ezibeleni team, Holy Kings. Five of them were K Motsepe Cup schools provincial champions in 2014 with Lingelihle High School. Mawethu Gwangwa and Thandolwethu Dayimane, who now play for the ABC Motsepe team Amavarara FC, were also in that Lingelihle team.
With the return of the league now in the offing, Yiweni said his team were keen to get back on the field and take care of the “unfinished business”.