Stellenbosch FC’s Head of Youth Jean-Pierre Farrugia has reflected on a successful period for the club’s academy after three prestigious pieces of silverware were added to the trophy cabinet over the last two months.
As the end of the domestic youth season draws near, the SFC Academy will look back at the 2023 campaign with a source of great pride after the club’s U-18 team emerged triumphant from the recent Engen Knockout Challenge (Western Cape) and Engen Champ of Champs competitions for the first time, defeating Ubuntu FC and Mamelodi Sundowns in the two respective finals.
Those triumphs, which came on the back of a runners-up finish to Cape Town Spurs in the Bayview Cup earlier in the year, were also complimented by the U-16 team earlier this month when they were crowned 2023 Kapstadt Cup champions following an impressive 2-1 win over the aforementioned Sundowns.
“I’m quite tired,” Farrugia joked when asked how he felt about the achievements. “But in all seriousness, I’m very happy and overwhelmed with the support and joy we’ve received from the town of Stellenbosch.
“The two successes we achieved over Mamelodi Sundowns in the space of less than a week is quite fantastic and something I don’t think we’ve achieved before in our junior divisions, so I’m very, very happy.
Stellies’ trio of titles was sparked by a first-ever triumph in the regional Engen Knockout Challenge where the club overcame the likes of Hanover Park, FN Rangers, Wanderers FC, and Spurs in a disruptive campaign, before meeting Ubuntu FC in the final. The showpiece encounter ultimately ended with the sides level before the Young Maroons emerged victorious from a penalty shootout.
“Regionals were quite difficult,” Farrugia recalls. “It felt like the EKOC tournament went on for the entire season because the tournament was initially set back a bit and then when it finally started, it was delayed further because of massive rains and flooding of the fields.
“We went in with high hopes and felt good after the first day, but then we had to postpone the tournament and we weren’t too sure how we would fare because our team also split for preparations for the current DDC season, so it was quite difficult to predict. Fortunately, the guys pulled together, we had a few sessions before and then they turned on a massive performance at the regionals.”
That triumph earned Stellenbosch a shot at the big-time at the Engen Champ of Champs where Farrugia’s side saw off competition from the likes of AmaZulu and Chippa United to reach the final against Sundowns, emerging as champions after a 1-1 (5-4) penalty shootout win.
“We had been working really hard at it so to go and win a national tournament in Johannesburg, against Sundowns, is not a small achievement,” he added. “A large part of it was down to a very solid defensive line. In 12 matches [across both Engen tournaments] we only conceded two goals, which is something quite remarkable.”
Less than a week later another trophy was added to the club’s cabinet after the U-16s downed Sundowns 2-1 to win the Kapstadt Cup after a jam-packed weekend of football.
“To follow the Engen Champ of Champs win with success at the Kapstadt Cup is special,” Farrugia added. “Coach Thulani Mapoyi was on a CAF coaching course, but I have to give high praise to him and coach Vernon Williams, because the foundations they have built with the U-16s paved the way for our success against Sundowns.
“Again, it was another good solid defensive performance with a good number of goals scored as well, and, overall, I’m very happy for the U-16 group and the coaches because it’s really another big achievement and another notch in the belt for us.”