The hottest football tournament in the world will return to your football pitches and television screens on Thursday, 25 July, with new teams, new innovations and a new level of heat!
The 2019 Varsity Football season was launched at UJ Sport Clubhouse on Wednesday, 17 July ahead of what will be three months of fiery action across South Africa.
This season, Varsity Football will feature a Bloemfontein Derby for the first time, with CUT (Central University of Technology) and UFS (University of the Free State) both qualifying for Varsity Men’s and Women’s Football competitions. The City of Roses is set for hotly contested clashes as the universities look for log points and, more importantly, bragging rights.
CUT skipper Keitumetse Mabathoana – who returns to the university after spending last year at UJ – explained that the new derby is going to be massively exciting for the players and city of Bloemfontein.
“I believe that the Bloemfontein Derby will add a lot to this tournament. The supporters will come in numbers to experience the two institutions in Bloemfontein battling against each other. I think this is the game that most people in Bloemfontein have been waiting for. Since the beginning of Varsity Football, supporters have been wondering when CUT and UFS will play against each other.”
UFS captain Gauta Mokati echoed Mabathoana’s sentiments.
“What makes our rivalry special is the fact that it divides Bloemfontein into two every time when there’s a game between UFS and CUT. The crowd always comes out in numbers whenever we face each other.
“We want to be crowned the kings of Bloemfontein. That game is going to be one for the history books. We want to have the bragging rights of the first ever Bloemfontein Derby,” Mokati concluded.
A new innovation Varsity Football is undertaking this season is the Northern Double Header, which will take place on Thursday, 8 August. Four teams will compete at the Tuks Stadium, treating the crowd to two Varsity Football fixtures. The first game will be current champions TUT (Tshwane University of Technology) taking on NWU (North-West University) followed by home side UP-Tuks taking on Jozi giants UJ (University of Johannesburg).
Varsity Football Manager Xhanti-Lomzi Nesi believes double headers like this are the future of sportainment.
“When it comes to our in-crowd target market of students between the ages of 18-25, we have seen the data and know they want a bigger event and more entertainment for their buck. This kind of double-header is what the future of live sports entertainment is. And with UP-Tuks and TUT being such well-supported teams in our competition, it made perfect sense to have the first of this initiative in Pretoria at the Tuks Stadium.”
“The Double Header takes place on a Thursday evening, our usual Varsity Football night, with the next day being Women’s Day, which means the crowd can back their team, have a great night and not worry about lectures the next day. We are really excited about this and think our spectators will be too.”
It’s also another exciting year for Varsity Women’s Football.
Banyana Banyana made the nation proud after competing at their first ever FIFA Women’s Football World Cup, and that side comprised of seven Varsity Women’s Football alumni, including Bongeka Gamede (the reigning Player of the Tournament), Leandra Smeda and Thembi Kgatlana.
National coach Desiree Ellis believes Varsity Women’s Football plays an important part in the academics of footballers, as well as, providing a platform for players to grow in the sport.
“It (Varsity Women’s Football) goes hand-in-hand and also gives an opportunity to football players to get an education. When I played in the national team 90 per cent of players were unemployed but now about 90 per cent or more have degrees and are currently studying. It’s always exciting to see young girls play and it gives us hope for the future of women’s football.”
The opening round of Varsity Football 2019 will see the eight men’s team pitted against each other:
UFS vs UWC (Shimla Park, 16:00 – LIVE on SuperSport 204/210)
UP-Tuks vs TUT (Tuks Stadium, 18:15 – LIVE on SuperSport 204/210)
CUT vs UJ (CUT Stadium, 18:30)
NWU Mafikeng vs UKZN (NWU-Mafikeng Stadium, 18:30)
Catch the 2019 Varsity Football action live on SuperSport 4 & SuperSport 10 or buy your tickets using the Varsity Sports App, available free from the Google Play store if you have an Android device or the Apple App Store for iOS devices.