The people of Nkonjaneni united in song and celebrations after their pride and joy Junior United FC won the Mkhondo Promotion League Playoffs 2020 to become champions of Mkhondo in a 3-2 win over Young Movers FC in the final played on Saturday 21 November 2020 at Masenkeni Stadium, Thandukukhanya. The club which suffered a bitter split from Amacaphuna aka United Brothers in 2017 represented Thandukukhanya Promotion League while Young Movers represented Sinethemba Promotion League based at New Stand, Saul Mkhizeville.
The 2020 playoffs broke from the tradition of playing over two days due to the Covid-19 pandemic regulations which encourages less contact between people. Mkhondo Promotion League began with 100 football clubs spread among 7 league streams in the Mkhondo Local Municipality jurisdictional are. The exclusion of Amsterdam Promotion League champions meant that only six (6) teams would participate at the 2020 playoff finals. The league failed to conclude the season due to internal battles in the executive committee.
A preliminary round was introduced to reduce the number of teams to participate at the main finals from six (6) to four (4) clubs. The other two were eliminated in the preliminary rounds. Saul Mkhizeville Promotion League champions Stone Breakers FC were eliminated when they lost 3-2 to Young Movers at Fast XI Ground on Saturday 14 November 2020. Ajax Sweepers FC lost 3-2 to Junior United in the battle of Thandukukhanya Promotion League streams (A&B) at Masenkeni Stadium the following day.
Four (4) teams were part of the playoffs finale. Ngema-Dirkiesdorp Promotion League champions Atletico Madrid FC lost 5-0 in the first semi-final against eventual champions Junior United. Black Lion FC from Siyethemba Promotion League lost via a walk over in their semi-final match against Young Movers FC after failing to produce proper playing cards. It was the 2nd time that a club from Siyethemba Promotion League (Sulphur Springs) was disqualified at the playoffs, the other being Real Madrid FC in the 2017/18 season.
Junior United FC chairman Mr Themba ‘Kisky’ Kunene immediately went into panic mode shouting everything from the stands, be it a call to Inkosi uShembe, encouragement to players or profanities towards his bench and opposite fans.
Back to the thrilling final between Junior United vs Young Movers, the final score (3-2) was a reflection of delightful football dished out by two equally strong teams. Football fans were entertained from the start with Young Movers FC opening the scoresheet as early as the 5th minute sending the majority home fans into silence.
Junior United FC chairman Mr Themba ‘Kisky’ Kunene immediately went into panic mode shouting everything from the stands, be it a call to Inkosi uShembe, encouragement to players or profanities towards his bench and opposite fans. The club from Saul Mkhizeville were all over them winning all midfield battles. Junior United introduced two players to bolster the midfield which was taking a hammering from the more experienced and tactically superior Young Movers midfielders. Two minutes into the change in midfield Junior United found an equalizer in the 25th minute sending their fans into a frenzy of celebrations.
The dominance in the middle of the park helped Junior United to score another goal in the 35th minute to take the game to 2-1 at half time. The battle was always going to be in the middle of the park even in the 2nd half. Young Movers made changes to the middle field by introducing more experienced players which changed the game in the 2nd half. They also began the second stanza the same way as they had done in the 1st half taking the game straight to Junior United. In the 5th minute of the 2nd half Young Movers found Junior United defence in deep sleep dreaming about promotion to the upper league, a beautiful shot into the top right corner sent Movers fans into wild celebrations. What followed was beautiful display of ground football with both sides enjoying a passing game, good football was dished at 2-2. Both teams could have won the final and promotion to the Regional League but only one winner was needed this time around. Junior United scored the winner towards the end of the match to make it 3-2 becoming the 2020 champions of Mkhondo Local Municipality.
Celebrations went through the night at Nkonjaneni where the club is based and where it was born after a bitter split from parent club United Brothers FC aka Amacaphuna at the end of the 2017/18 season. The club changed the name to Junior United FC in the beginning of the 2018/19 season where they finished 5th in the league. Only now in 2019/2020 season, the team gain promotion to the Regional Men League formerly known as the SAB Regional League.
This promotion is for the first time in the history of Nkonjaneni and the club, three seasons after losing out at the Gert Sibande Promotional Playoffs 2017 finals when they were still competing as United Brothers FC. The champions received a trophy, gold medals, match ball, training equipment and a new playing kit for reaching and winning the finals. 2nd placed side Young Movers FC also received a playing kit, silver medals, match ball and training bibs. The participating clubs were also compensated with a travel subsidy from the Mkhondo Local Football Association. The games were sponsored by the office of the executive mayor at Mkhondo Local Municipality which has promised to continue providing support towards organized football in the area.