The Nedbank Cup conjures up a special kind of Magic
Romance of cup comes in watching how amateur clubs use the opportunity to rub shoulders with the elite
The romance of the Nedbank Cup comes not necessarily in lifting the trophy at the end of the campaign, but rather in watching how amateur clubs use the opportunity to rub shoulders with the elite as a springboard to bigger things.
The most recent example of this is Baroka FC, who were a third-tier side when they beat both Moroka Swallows and Kaizer Chiefs on their way to the Nedbank Cup semifinals in 2011. It brought the Limpopo minnows and their young coach Sello Chokoe to the attention of fans up and down SA, but also provided a financial stimulus to the team that saw them swiftly move up the football pyramid.
Cape Town side The Magic will hope for similar good fortune when they host Kaizer Chiefs in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, the most intriguing of the last-16 ties. The ABC Motsepe League team are co-owned by former Bafana Bafana striker George Dearnaley and have a strong community presence in the Mother City, which led to much disappointment when it was announced the game would be played in the Eastern Cape. But for The Magic this is a rare chance to cash in on their achievements and build a stronger club.
The team is guaranteed R200,000 in prize money for making the last 16, which could be doubled if they advance to the next round, while they also take a sizeable chunk of the gate takings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
“The prize-money and the 40% of the gate money against Chiefs, that all makes a massive difference because at our level we don’t get any funding,” Dearnaley said.
“Last season we finished second [in the ABC Motsepe League] and the prize money we got was R30,000. This season we went to Beaufort West [to play a league game] and that trip alone cost us R45,000.
“It’s our money, myself and my partner Miles [October] put it all in. So the prize money and the gate money is great in terms of getting something back, and it is probably about half of our budget for the entire season.”
For Chiefs this fixture is another hurdle in their bid to end a trophy drought that is going on four years. But for The Magic it is about increasing revenue opportunities and exposure for their players.
The club survives on selling into the Premier League and National First Division, though they have promotion goals of their own, with perhaps their most high-profile transfer being that of Tapelo Nyongo to AmaZulu.
“The whole idea of creating a football club and calling it ‘The Magic’ was to try and create these moments,” Dearnaley said. “To give young people the chance to see the opportunities that there are in football. It’s a dream tie, it will be a stage for some of our players to show what they can do and if they can put their hands up on the day, there will be people saying: ‘Jeez, who’s that kid’.
“We have already had a couple of calls, we had a PSL club phone us about one of our players after the TV game against Maccabi [in the last 32]. So people are watching, but on a day-to-day basis we don’t get any exposure in this league.
“And there is talent here, not just in my club, but at other teams [in the ABC Motsepe League] there is also great talent. It just needs to be nurtured, discovered and given a chance.”
Dearnaley admits he would have preferred to play the tie with Chiefs in Cape Town, but says there are advantages to playing in Port Elizabeth and, frankly, they have to do what is best for the team. “It was out of our hands, it was out of the PSL’s hands, it was just circumstances, the two big Cape Town venues had been booked out months in advance. But I don’t see it as a disadvantage.
“For these guys to be staying at home, surrounded by their friends and family, could actually be a big distraction leading into a game like this. So to spend two nights in a hotel, together as a group, we can be nice and focused. And to play in a World Cup stadium … magic!”
Of course, that is not to say that the club are not targeting a victory on Sunday, which would mean a quarterfinal and a greater purse, and given how fellow third-tier side Tornado FC took Chiefs to extra time in the previous round, nothing is impossible. But much of the interest will lie in what happens to The Magic after the weekend and if they can use this opportunity to move forward as a club.