Northern Areas Football Association Easter tournament director Valentine Brink said they were gearing up for another high-quality festival of soccer when the event celebrated its 44th edition this weekend.
Sponsored by SPAR Eastern Cape for the second year, the longest-running amateur soccer tournament in the country will take place at the Gelvan soccer fields from Friday to Monday.
Involving 48 age-group teams from U11 to U20, as well as 20 senior teams, the proceedings will reach a climax when the main final is played at the Gelvan Stadium on Monday at 3.30pm.
Brink said everything was on track for another bumper weekend of soccer, adding that the SPAR sponsorship played a critical role in enabling them to deliver a quality product.
“Their involvement in the last two years has been a massive boost for the tournament, ensuring that we can go from strength to strength in providing a memorable experience for all,” said Brink.
He said an indication of how the tournament continued to flourish was the introduction of a U20 division involving eight teams this year.
“This adds to the five sections we have from U9 to U17 so we are able to cater for players of all ages.”
SPAR Eastern Cape promotions and advertising manager Alan Stapleton said they were delighted to be part of one of the largest amateur events in the country.
“It is great to be involved with a tournament with 43 years of heritage and tradition,” he said.
“It is also good to work with Nafa, a body who seek to foster, promote and develop soccer in the region.
“Furthermore, this tournament offers opportunities for junior, age-group and senior players, tying in with SPAR’s commitment to contribute to the community.
Stapleton said core SPAR values such as entrepreneurship within the framework of a team, passion, family and a healthy lifestyle were all embodied by the tournament in one way or another.
He placed special emphasis on the company’s belief in family values.
“This tournament is all about involving the whole family, while Nafa have a huge drive to keep children active in healthy environments.
“Their motto – a child in sport is a child out of court – rings very true to us at SPAR.”
Westlake from Port Elizabeth won the tournament last year and they will be back to defend their title.
While the entry list comprises mostly Eastern Cape clubs, Brink said four teams would be travelling from the Western Cape to compete in the tournament.