Mohalenyane Phakela/Mikia Kalati
THE inaugural two-day Castle Lager Best Brew League football tournament in the North West province of South Africa lived up to the hype, giving participants a memorable time during which they rubbed shoulders with regional soccer legends.
The initiative which drew participants from Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia was launched in May to celebrate friendship among Castle Lager consumers in Southern Africa.
It featured regular people in a five-aside tournament and these were selected after qualifying tournaments in their home countries.
In Lesotho, Maluti Mountain Brewery (MMB) partnered with the legendary Lehlohonolo Seema, the ambassador of the 2017 edition of the COSAFA CUP tournament to select six players to represent the Mountain Kingdom.
Philadelphia of Ha Thetsane in Maseru got the nod to represent Lesotho in South Africa after beating teams from seven other different bars in Maseru.
Seema was joined in South Africa by other regional legends such as Tinashe Nengomasha (Zimbabwe), Siza Dlamini (Swaziland), Brian Baloyi (South Africa), Dipsy Selolwane (Botswana) and Rotson Kilambe (Zambia).
The legends coached their countries also took to the field alongside their countrymen from the quarterfinal stage of the Best Brew League.
Castle Lager Africa Brand Manager, Thomas Lawrence said the tournament aimed to foster friendship among African countries while developing football over a drink of Castle Lager.
“As it all comes together with a Castle, this is one of the African brand’s marketing strategies aimed at bringing Africans together in a fun-filled environment,” Lawrence said.
“We did research before launching this campaign and realised that five-aside football has not developed in Africa although it has become internationally recognised.
“The idea is to give players the professional experience every year starting with this curtain raiser and based on the mood and response here it shows that it is working.
“It does not end here and our big dream is to get more people involved across the continent.”
The tournament was held at Royal Bafokeng Sports Ground and it kicked off on Saturday morning with teams being broken into two groups. Zambia and South Africa each had two teams to bring the total to eight teams. Lesotho’s first match against Zambia ended in a one-all draw. They then played out another draw with Zambian team before beating Zimbabwe 2-1 to finish second in the group.
Although they lost 2-1 to Botswana in the quarter finals on Sunday, Lesotho’s performance aroused so much attention because they were the only team that did not lose to eventual champions Zambia who beat Botswana in the finals.
Some even jokingly asked whether if Lesotho had not brought its senior Likuena national team to the tournament.
The fun and festivities continued after the matches with participants being treated to generous servings of Castle Lager and music at the local Lucky’s Pub, where legendary South African disc spinner Glen Lewis played until late into the night.
The teams eventually parted ways on Monday morning and by then, most had exchanged contact details and made plans to each other.
One of the Team Lesotho members, Teboho Khanare said the Best Brew League was a once in a lifetime opportunity that he will forever cherish.
“The experience from when I left my country on Thursday is something I will cherish forever,” Khanare said, adding he was encouraged to start a five-aside league in Lesotho.
“I never in my life imagined that I would get a chance to talk to the likes of Selolwane of Botswana because those were people I had only seen on television.
“It was also nice meeting people from other countries and making friends,” he said.
The Lesotho team also featured former Likuena captain and current LCS assistant coach, Khoto Sesing.
Sesing said the five-aside competition was an enjoyable but different experience to that he had when he represented Lesotho in different competitions such as the Africa Cup of Nations, World Cup qualifiers as well as the COSAFA Cup.