The beautiful game proves for the umpteenth time that it can unite and bring joy to the people.
The football loving community of Eziphunzini were united in song and celebrations when one of their teams Shining Stars FC defeated Total Football United FC of Phola Park 2-0 in the Mkhondo Easter Diski Challenge final played on Monday 22 April 2019 at Mandla Magudulela Stadium, Thandukukhanya. The final was one of two tournaments playing at Thandukukhanya which was exclusive for clubs playing under the Mkhondo Promotion League.
Shining Stars started the day with a hard fought 3-1 win over Mara Mara FC in the first semi-final to book a spot in the final. Their opponents Total Football United scored two quick goals in the first half of their semi-final match against rivals PR Barcelona FC to win 2-1. There were no clear favourites to win the match when referee Thabo Gumbi blew the whistle to kick-off the final match. The weather was cold for the spectators but perfect for the players on the pitch who played with high tempo from the beginning.
Chances were created and missed in the first half by both sides but Total Football United were the biggest culprits led by Andile "Jali" Mkhonza and Benzema Thela misfiring in the front. They thought they had scored in the 35th minute when defender Khulekani ‘Khura’ Thwala found Andile ‘Jali’ Mkhonza unmarked with a lobbed pass which he controlled and shot past Shining Stars keeper only to be ruled offside by linesman Thabo ‘Vickor Gomez’ Msibi. Shining Stars should thank their goalkeeper for making fine saves to keep his team on the game taking the score to 0-0 at half time.
The weather was getting chilly and drizzling making the spectators sit up close together to keep warm in the stands when the 2nd half began at the stadium named after Mandla 'Star' Magudulela political activist who was killed by the apartheid police in 1993. The action on the field was getting hotter making it difficult for fans leave due to fear of missing out. The stadium commentary by Phumlani "Sgegede" Khanyile from Phola Park and the young Kwandile “Sgodo/Iron” Nkosi from Eziphunzini kept spectators entertained, informed about names of players and shared information on the teams. Shining Stars won over the majority of fans with their brand of passing football. The noise from the fans rallied the team until they scored through Sthembiso ‘Bibo’ Mthembu who received a defence splitting pass from his captain Lindokuhle Buthelezi to score past a helpless Thokozani ‘Malema’ Mbatha in goal to lead 1-0 with 15 minutes to go. The fans went wild in celebration and at times joining Sgodo the commentator in his favourite line, "Kuuuuuuuuuude Emuvaaa, Kuuuuuuuuuude phambiliii”!!!
At this time everyone from Eziphunzini was singing and rejoicing behind Shining Stars. Their bench which included club manager Mboni Skhosana and Coach Celumusa Mkhonza kept on checking the time visibly nervous. Total Football United players kept on fighting but the twelve (12) men were just too much for the young side. They were caught on a counter attack in the last minute of the game after losing the ball while trying to get the equaliser. Shining Stars attacker Piki collected a pass alone at the edge of the box and managed to beat the advancing Malema in the last minute to score his team’s second goal sending spectators into wild celebrations.
"We are happy for winning the tournament, the cash will boost us. We will go buy socks and maybe a jersey for the club,"
It is the first official cup final win for Shining Stars which campaigns in Thandukukhanya Promotion League stream A currently sitting at position five (5). The other best performance was finishing 2nd to Citizen FC in the Apostles Cup final in 2016. The club gathered with their supporters for a little prayer before making their way to the medals table but they surprisingly found themselves alone without the runners up.
Total Football United did not come to collect their silver medals even after they were called upon by members of the Mkhondo LFA. It was a disappointing scene to watch and an embarrassment for the Mkhondo LFA members who played it down and continued to award the champions. The champions’ excitement and energy also made the ugly scene forgettable with their celebrations, chanting & singing as they made their way to the medals table. The club manager Mboni Skhosana was delighted when they received a cool R7000 cash which was probably the biggest prize money the team has ever won. "We are happy for winning the tournament, the cash will boost us. We will go buy socks and maybe a jersey for the club," he shouted as he went to celebrate with his team. The club players received gold medals and a trophy for becoming champions of the 5th edition of the annual Mkhondo Easter Diski Challenge.