Vodacom Challenge returns with more Power in 2011
The Vodacom Challenge is back and bright red in 2011! After skipping 2010 to accommodate the hosting of the FIFA World Cup, South Africa's most high profile pre-season tournament returns to whet the appetites of football fans ahead of the new season under the brand new red Vodacom banner.
This year Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates will be joined by one of the most esteemed names in English football, Tottenham Hotspur, for a showdown of mouth-watering action over two exciting weeks, from 16-23 July.
The early chapter of the Vodacom Challenge was an all-African affair, with some of the biggest clubs on the continent jetting in to face the Vodacom-sponsored Soweto giants. Between 1999 and 2005, Esperance (Tunisia), Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak (Ghana), ASEC Mimosas and Africa Sports (Cote D'Ivoire), Green Buffaloes (Zambia), Dynamos (Zimbabwe) and TP Mazembe, St. Eloi Lupopo and AS Vita Club (Democratic Republic of Congo) all played their part in raising the status of the Vodacom Challenge.
2006 marked the first arrival of English Premier League competitors, with Manchester United providing a glamorous gloss to the growing reputation of the Vodacom Challenge. Tottenham Hotspur came a year later, followed by the Red Devils' second visit in 2008 and their cross-town rivals Manchester City in 2009.
The mighty Amakhosi lead the pack with five titles, having lifted the trophy in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2009. The Buccaneers have two - 1999 and 2005 - while St. Eloi Lupopo, AS Vita Club, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United each boast a single triumph.
Spurs are no strangers to South African shores, having previously toured in 2003 to promote the country's ultimately successful bid to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It was during this visit that Mbulelo Mabizela's majestic defensive efforts earned him a transfer to White Hart Lane. They were back in 2007 to take up the Vodacom Challenge, in which they duly prevailed over Chiefs and Pirates in a tightly contested series.
Harry Redknapp became manager of Tottenham Hotspur in October 2008, with the club struggling in the league. Since then, Redknapp has led the team to a respectable eighth in his first season and then fourth in the following campaign, qualifying for the ‘holy grail' of club football, the UEFA Champions League, inside 18 months.
The addition of Dutch midfield maestro Rafael Van Der Vaart to a talented squad that includes Luka Modric, Aaron Lennon, Peter Crouch, Michael Dawson and new Welsh wonder kid, Gareth Bale, has delighted Spurs fans on their roller coaster debut season among the continent's elite as they scored memorable victories over defending champions, Internazionale and seven-times winners, AC Milan, before falling at the quarterfinal stage to no less than a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Real Madrid.
To make things even more intriguing, the North Londoners also possess two of Bafana Bafana's biggest stars, Steven Pienaar and Bongani Khumalo. Both players joined during the January transfer window, Pienaar from Everton and Khumalo from Supersport United.
Khumalo has been loaned out to Championship side, Preston North End to find his feet in English football but is due back at White Hart Lane at the end of the season and is expected to be present at the Vodacom Challenge.
"2011 is a special year in the history of Vodacom, marking the return of the Vodacom Challenge, providing fans with the highest quality football experience, packaged in the bold red colour-burst that is the new look of Vodacom, reflecting the company's exciting vision for the future, which is ‘Power to You'," said Vodacom's Managing Executive: Marketing, Enzo Scarcella.
"The electrifying spirit of the transition into the new Vodacom identity promises to take this year's Vodacom Challenge to greater heights than ever before and produce a feast of fantastic football, with goals galore to thrill the supporters. We back our two Vodacom-sponsored teams, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates to do us all proud in holding their own against one of the great English footballing institutions, Tottenham Hotspur."
"Spurs have a very entertaining style of play. Like Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, they are committed to playing attractive, attacking football. The Vodacom Challenge should provide loads of excitement for the fans and we are proud to associate ourselves with the event," said Jabu Mathibela, spokesperson for event organisers, SAIL.
Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur captain Michael Dawson is excited about returning to South Africa so soon after the 2010 FIFA World Cup. "Pre-season is a very important time for the Club, preparation is key if you want a good start to the season. I spent time in South Africa during the World Cup last year, it's a fantastic country with a real passion for football and I'm looking forward to experiencing that again." he said.
Amakhosi supremo, Kaizer Motaung, also recognises what the event means to Chiefs. "To have won five Vodacom Challenge titles is a huge source of pride at Naturena because we have had to beat some of the best teams in Africa and England. It is an honour to be a part of the occasion and to have the opportunity to test ourselves against top class opposition. It is a credit to our partner, Vodacom that they have developed this tournament into the headline attraction that it is today by keeping true to their ethos in maintaining high standards of quality," he said.
"Vodacom's concept works out well for everybody involved," added Orlando Pirates chairman Dr. Irvin Khoza. "The involvement of big overseas teams is good experience for our players and the supporters are entertained with great action. Pirates' association with Vodacom has proved mutually successful over many years and we hope that will continue into the future."
Every goal scored during the tournament will serve an even higher purpose than merely influencing matches. The Vodacom Foundation's ‘Goals for Miracles' initiative will donate R150 000 each time the ball hits the back of the net during regulation time to contribute towards free cataract operations for disadvantaged senior citizens battling with their sight. The incentive for all Chiefs, Pirates and Spurs players to play attacking football could not be greater and appreciation for their goals will be deeply felt far beyond the confines of the stadium.
The challenge commences on Saturday 16 July 2011, when Kaizer Chiefs take on Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs then come up against Orlando Pirates on Tuesday evening, 19 July before the focus moves to Derby on Thursday 21 July to determine who meets Tottenham in the Final on Saturday 23 July. Venues will be announced shortly.
Vodacom Challenge tickets go on sale on 17 May and can be purchased through Computicket, Shoprite, Checkers and Checkers Hyper. The most exciting football available will be affordable to all, with prices ranging from R50 to R150.
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