The Bayhill Under-19 Premier Cup — the stage where SA soccer stars are born
The annual Bayhill Under-19 Premier Cup, now in its 34th year, is the hunting ground for PSL coaches searching for that missing vital player. Some of the players who made their debuts in this competition went on to play for English Premiership teams or Europe clubs.
If you have a passing interest in soccer, you have probably heard of Benni McCarthy and Matthew Booth. You’ve no doubt heard of Moeneeb Josephs, Bradley August, Nasief Davids and Thulani Serero. But there is a good chance you have never heard of the Bayhill Under-19 Premier Cup.
It’s a big deal in Cape Town and a place where the aforementioned players first caught the eye of scouts from the Premier Soccer League (PSL).
This year the tournament enters its 34th year and the tradition will be carried on over the Easter weekend, at the Erica Park sports field in Belhar. There are 32 teams vying for supremacy in the Bayhill Under-19 Premier Cup, with the winners scheduled to be crowned on Easter Monday.
Due to increased popularity, the finals this year will be played at the Athlone Stadium, which can handle thousands of spectators, but the bulk of the tournament will play out at Erica Park.
Bay City Rambles hosted the first tournament in 1989, and in 1991, Bay City Rambles and Sparkhill FC merged to create the Bayhill Soccer Club.
Metropolitan came aboard as the main sponsor and was dubbed the Metropolitan Premier Cup. Matroosfontein FC captured the inaugural title. Hellenic FC won it five years in a row (1993-1997) while Ajax Cape Town won it six times. When Metropolitan ended its association with the tournament in 2016/17, its future looked bleak.
Due to a lack of funding, the tournament was discontinued in 2018 and subsequently cancelled in 2020 and 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic. After a two-year hiatus, the Bayhill Premier Cup returned in 2022, with the silverware renamed the Roger Clayton Trophy.
The renaming honours Clayton, also known as Mr Bayhill, who passed away in September 2020. Clayton was co-founder and long-term coordinator of the Bayhill Under-19 Premier Cup.
Cape Town Spurs clinched the first Roger Clayton Trophy in 2022.
This year’s tournament received a significant boost when the City of Cape Town’s Recreation and Parks Department announced it would sponsor the soccer showpiece and contribute R662,100 to its running costs.
Outlining the importance of supporting the development of local soccer, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Patricia Van der Ross said, “An investment in sport is an investment in the future of our youth. It changes one’s mindset to be part of a team, to commit to learning the rules of play and then spending hours practising in order to perform well on the field.
“Well-organised recreation can safeguard our youngsters, keeping them captivated in a very productive way. It also builds community when families come out in numbers together to show their support, which leaves players beaming with pride from the entire experience, regardless of which team eventually wins the final.”
The Bayhill Cup is made even more spectacular by the fact that it attracts close to 100,000 spectators over the course of the tournament. On the day of the finals, the sports ground is packed to capacity, with thousands of enthusiastic soccer fans sitting on the Vibracrete fence or straining for a view from the hills adjacent to the field or from trees in the vicinity of the pitch.
Throughout the years the Bayhill Cup has served as a recruiting ground for PSL, Under-20, and Under-23 national managers, where elite coaches were able to identify potential stars.
The following are some of the top players who made their mark at this tournament and were picked up by PSL teams or advanced to national and ultimately international teams:
- Benni McCarthy — currently a first-team coach at Manchester United;
- former Bafana Bafana defender Matthew Booth
- Lance Davids who had stints at British clubs Blackburn and Newcastle United;
- Former PSL player David Kannemeyer;
- Former Bafana Bafana player Bradley August;
- Former professional player Nasief Morris who also played mostly in Greece but also in Spain and Cyprus,
- Moeneeb Josephs — former goalkeeper for Orlando Pirates; and
- Ajax Cape Town striker Thulani Serero, who went on the play for Ajax Amsterdam.
Speaking to Daily Maverick, new tournament director Rayaan Allie said required steps for players’ succession planning have been put in place, positioning Bayhill favourably, as a key role player in local community football.
“The majority of the tournament participants come from impoverished areas where they are vulnerable to social ills. This soccer showpiece provides them with another choice,” said Allie.
The aim of the tournament, he said, is to bridge the gap for players from the age of 17 and blood them as senior players.
“This competition provides a platform for young players to demonstrate their abilities and impress national and PSL coaches. This is where they are chosen and their aspirations of becoming professional players are realised,” Allie stated.
Clash of the titans
This year’s competition will pit local teams against the protégés of top PSL squads. Amongst the big guns with their sights set on the coveted Champions Trophy are Cape Town Spurs, Cape Town City, SuperSport United, Sundowns, and Queenspark FC, Highlands Park, University of Pretoria, and Hellenic FC.
Making their debut at the tournament will be two teams from Namibia — Windhoek Gymnasium and Athletic Club.
The 32 teams are divided into eight groups, with the best two teams advancing to the final 16-knockout round. This is a must-win fight to advance to the semi-finals.
Athlone Stadium’s Easter Monday finals include the Plate Section, Mid Section, and Roger Clayton Trophy Final. DM