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The City of Johannesburg-backed Maimane Alfred Phiri (MAP) Games, an annual soccer tournament aimed at unearthing raw football talent in South Africa, moved into a higher gear at the weekend with the staging of the quarterfinals round at Rotary Stadium in Alexandra, Region E.

Teams from as far afield as Mpumalanga, the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal descend on Alexandra every year to take part in the tournament, which carries a R160 000 top prize.

The Games, the brainchild of former Bafana Bafana and Moroka Swallows midfielder Maimane Alfred Phiri, are also supported by sponsors such as Daily Sun; African Meter Reading; Coca-Cola; Gauteng Gambling Board;; Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation; and Alex FM.

Cash prizes – including the R95 000 and R30 000 second and third prizes respectively – are funded by Umso Construction, a black economic empowerment company founded in 1996.

Over the weekend of 1-2 July, 16 soccer teams from various parts of the country fought for places in the quarterfinals round but with one eye on the top prize. The semifinals will be played over the weekend of 8-9 July and the final on Sunday July 16.

“The purpose of this tournament is to give aspiring soccer players a platform to showcase their talent and expose them to agencies that will help them enter professional football clubs,” said founder Phiri.

A total of more than 200 000 spectators watch the games every year, creating lucrative economic opportunities for various small local businesses. Tournament Director Percy Ndaba said the Games had grown in leaps and bounds since they were established in 2001.

“When Maimane started this tournament, it was because he felt the need to plough back into the community. It started very small, as a one-day tournament. But as more sponsors came on board over the years, it grew. Now it has 140 teams competing in under-13, under-15, under-17 and under-20 leagues, as well as in senior team categories,” Ndaba said.

He said the tournament was not only about soccer as it also provided bursaries to deserving young footballers to the total value of R200 000 through Boston City Campus.

“We also have a good relationship with the City of Johannesburg, which allows us to use its facilities for free. When we have media launches, we host up to 200 people and the City supports us with catering and decor. Last year, the City helped us with medals.

“The Joint Operation Committee (JOC) also comes in handy because organising a big event like this can be very costly. The City helps us with making sure there is safety and security,” Ndaba concluded.