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​The Inner City Ambassadors Football Club fought hard to win a place in the Junior Master World Finals, but lost out to another Joburg team, Moroka Swallows.
SO close, yet so far; this is how it all went down for young footballers of the Inner City Ambassadors Football Club, who reached the semifinals of the Volkswagen Junior Masters.

Inner City Ambassadors FC take on Ajax AmsterdamInner City Ambassadors FC take on West Cape VW The team, which played under their sponsor’s name, Lindsay Saker Johannesburg, came into the tournament as under dogs, but proved a force to be reckoned with, beating some of the more highly rated teams on Tuesday 10, January.

A total of 22 teams participated in the tournament, held at the Volkswagen Dobsonville Stadium. At stake was the opportunity to represent South Africa at the Junior Master World Finals in Poland in May 2012.

Not even the visitors from West Cape VW could deter the Inner City Ambassadors’ confidence. In the opening minutes of the encounter with West Cape, the Inner City boys showed the ultimate determination, firing shots at their opponents’ goalkeeper.

With their fans out in the stands they were fired up and did everything to keep the crowd happy. For their part, the spectators blew their vuvuzelas and sang out loud, creating an environment that was somewhat foreign for the visitors.

In spite of the pressure, though, West Cape managed to regroup quickly and fired one in the back of the net after just 10 minutes of play. With their confidence back, West Cape controlled the ball position towards the closing minutes of the first half. But they became a little over confident – to their opponents’ advantage.

Inner City Ambassadors coach Sibusiso Buthelezi gives a pep talk to his boysInner City Ambassadors coach Sibusiso Buthelezi gives a pep talk to his boysJust under a minute remaining in the first half, Inner City were awarded a penalty after a tackle from behind on one of their strikers in the 18-yard. Taking the spot kick was the skillful 12-year-old Mlungisi Doncabe, who sent the goalkeeper in the wrong direction to level the score just in time for the half-time break.

Second half
In the second half of the game it was one-way traffic as the Inner city Ambassadors scored their second goal, barely a minute into the game. The goal was fired in by hardworking 12-year-old Warren Phiri. So versatile is Warren that for the greater part of the game he played as a striker yet was always present to help in defending.

The same morale and team spirit carried the Inner City boys through to the quarter finals, when they outplayed Autohaus Centurion, beating them 2-0. This score took them to the semifinals. The goals were scored by 12-year-olds Comfort Dlamini and Mlungisi.

After booking a spot in the semis, the boys’ dream of jetting to Poland was almost tangible, but it wasn’t meant to be – Moroka Swallows, the home team, stopped them in their tracks. They defeated Inner City 2-0 to proceed to the finals, where they met McCarthy Middleburg.

Moroka Swallows captain Lefa Tsutsulupa celebrates with the junior teamMoroka Swallows captain Lefa Tsutsulupa celebrates with the victorious junior teamThe beautiful birds continued their form in the finals, winning by 2-1 after a heated final. Leading the birds to victory was the captain, Sanele Zulu, who scored the first of the two goals.

Not to be left out was Swallows’ Tshepo Kekana, in the number eight jersey, which was without a doubt was the most popular on the day. At the end of it all the beautiful birds were crowned the champions of the Volkswagen Junior Master 2012 Tournament and will be flying to Poland in May to present South Africa at the Junior Master World Finals.

Speaking during the post-match interviews, coaches congratulated their teams for their hard work, dedication and maintaining discipline throughout the tournament. Among them was the Inner City Ambassadors coach, Sipho Buthelezi, who was confident that the team were destined to achieve more.

“I am proud of the boys for having achieved way beyond our expectations,” he said. “They trained hard for this tournament. It is unfortunate that they did not win but there is always a next time. Otherwise they played well.”

The founder of the team, John Maluleke, who is a police captain, was also present to congratulate the team.

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