Johannesburg — A host of superstars, including bonafide legend Samuel Eto’o, were on call to usher in the Castle Africa 5’s in Johannesburg yesterday. The tournament has been touted as the biggest five-a-side competition on the continent and will be played across six different countries — South Africa, Lesotho, Tanzania, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Kick-off will be on February 1 and the football will flow until the end of May. Teams will compete domestically before the winners of each country travel to Lusaka, Zambia to battle it out in the play-offs and subsequent final.
More than glory awaits at the end of the road as the ultimate victors will score themselves a trip to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The tournament promises to offer a heavy emphasis on grass-roots development and be accessible to all communities. The five-a-side format itself is particularly suited to players who don’t have the resources or facilities necessary to maintain a full-side team.
To enter, players need to buy a six-pack of Castle Lager — the primary sponsor — and fill out an entry form. Entries close on March 24.
A collection of famed former players were introduced during the launch event in their new role of “Legends”. They will assume the responsibility of mentoring and guiding the teams from their respective nations. The mentors are Lehlohonolo Seema
(Lesotho), Tinashe Nengomasha (Zimbabwe), Christopher Katongo (Zambia), Siza Dlamini (Swaziland) and Ivo Mapunda (Tanzania).
Assuming the primary ambassador role will of course be Eto’o. The four-time African Player of the Year is a huge coup for the organisers and will no doubt be a major draw of the competition.
“It is an honour to be part of this initiative, whereby communities are provided with a rare opportunity to form bonds on the field of play and across borders,” he said.
“I have formed amazing friendships around the globe on the football field and now fans stand a chance of reliving my experiences.”
Eto’o has played for titans such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Inter Milan and currently plies his trade in Turkey for Antalyaspor. He was won just about every major honour club football has to offer, including the Champions League, La Liga and Seria A