Challenge Cup hosts look to impress

On the ball... Vasco da Gama FC assistant coach Gordon Alkana, captain Chad McCallum and coach Carlos de Oliveira.

Picture: Mzoxolo Budaza

Hosts Vasco da Gama rounded off their preparations with coach Carlos de Oliveira making it clear that his side aimed to go all the way after they bowed out in last year’s semi-final.

Although confident that his side was capable of beating anyone on any day, de Olivier remained cautiously optimistic. As hosts, a lot is expected of them.

“It is not going to be easy and, (based on) what we’ve seen previously, then the tournament is going to be even tougher. Fellow amateur teams are no longer easy opponents,” he said.

When Northern News dropped in on a recent training session, it was obvious that De Olivier and his charges meant business.

The players were already down on the field warming up, before the start of the 5.30pm training session.

Leading by example was captain, Chad McCallum, a Grade 12 pupil at Fairmont High School in Durbanville.

McCallum knows exactly what is expected in this competition.

Having already played in two Knockout Challenge tournaments, he’s been around long enough to know that it can get rough out there.

“Having played in this competition before doesn’t mean I have to take things easy. Yes, the experience will, in a way, help me handle the demands that comes with participating in this competition. First I have to make sure I am on top of my game but that is not enough because I also have to make sure I try to lift my teammates’ game.

“It is a matter of striking that balance between playing well and leading the team effectively.

“It is a healthy challenge and luckily we have a team made up of brothers. We play for each other, and that, I think, is going to work to our advantage come tournament time,” said the youngster from Kuils River.

Coach De Oliveira concurred.

“We have tried to assemble a team of young and energetic players. They have played together for a long time and are going to take most by surprise,” said de Oliveira.