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COMMENT: Highlands Park are no one-hit wonders

By Ongama Gcwabe , in Football | News , at 2023-11-28 Tags:

The fairy-tale season of the Highlands Park u19 team was brought to an end on Sunday, courtesy of the South African football giants Kaizer Chiefs, who edged out the Lions of the North after a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals of the Gauteng Development League (GDL) Youth Cup.

While Chiefs won on Sunday, 2023 has, undoubtedly, belonged to Highlands Park. They were the best team throughout the duration of the most coveted youth league in South Africa, which many respected football experts believe to be the best youth league on the African continent.

The GDL is comprised of four divisions – u13, u15, u17 and u19 – and Highlands Park were crowned champions of the toughest of them all, the u19 division, which features some of the most exciting football talent in the country, including players who occasionally feature for South Africa’s top-flight Premier Soccer League clubs in the DStv Premiership.

Despite their success, coach Sifiso Mnguni‘s Highlands Park u19s always carry the underdogs’ tag into clashes against the likes of Mamelodi Sundowns, Chiefs and SuperSport United – clubs who have built up respect in African football over the course of many years.

This past year, though, Mnguni and his unit reenacted the David and Goliath story, taking down the giants, week-in and week-out, as they powered their way to the 2023 Gauteng Development League title.

After the league season concluded, the GDL Youth Cup was launched, and following their league title, Mnguni’s team was immediately installed as the favourites to achieve the double.

Highlands Park were in cruise control in the round of 32 and the round of 16, but they hit a roadblock in the form of coach David Mathebula‘s Chiefs u19s this past weekend. Some termed the quarterfinal showdown “the final before the final”.

For Chiefs, it was an opportunity for redemption. They had finished third in the league, trailing runners-up Mamelodi Sundowns by two points, but Highlands Park by 12. For the Lions of the North, it was another chance to further assert their dominance.

In the end, though, it was the Phefeni Glamour Boys who secured redemption.

They very nearly missed out, scoring a last-minute goal in regulation time to force a penalty shootout, which the AmaKhosi then won 5-4 from the spot.

It wasn’t the way in which Highlands Park wanted to end their season, but coach Mnguni, his players and the entire Highlands Park Club have many reasons to be proud of the sustained excellence produced by his charges throughout an eight-month long league campaign, and on into the knockout format of the GDL Youth Cup.

Their league success refutes any suggestions that Highlands Park were one-hit wonders. They not only won the league title, they earned the respect of the entire Gauteng Development League community.

error: Sorry ol' chap, those shenanigans are not permissible.