The validation of progress for the Maties Football Club after finishing the 2022/23 season in the top five is indicative of the plan coming together. This sentiment is shared by Desmond Crowie, Maties Football Club head coach, and Ellroy Smith, Sport Manager of the Maties FC side.
Maties FC competes in Stream A of the SAFA Second Division known as the ABC Motsepe League (the former Vodacom League) with sides like former PSL side Santos FC, recent Bayhill Cup winners, Grassy Park United FC, Ikapa Sporting FC, and Cape Town Spurs FC.
The ABC Motsepe League is South Africa’s overall third-tier league. The competition features 144 teams in total, divided into nine geo-political provinces with 16 teams per division. Winners of each provincial division qualify for the Promotional Play-offs. These 16 teams are further divided into two streams – eight teams per stream – where the two winning clubs gain promotion to the National First Division (NFD).
“It’s our second season in the ABC Motsepe and this finish, fifth, is our best since gaining promotion to the ABC Motsepe League in 2020,” said Crowie. “I have been a coach at the club since 2017, and at that point, we were campaigning in the SAB [South African Breweries] 3rd Division Winelands Regional League.”
Testament to the amazing work that Crowie and his team have done with every player speaks volumes. Crowie, who joined Maties FC six seasons ago, comes from a very famous football family. He is the second youngest of five brothers – all of whom have played football. His older brother, Duncan, is the current South African U17 – Amajimbos – coach.
Growing up in a football-orientated family, Desmond finds it necessary to head into every season with a meticulous plan. Maties’ final position at the end of the 2022/23 season testifies to the execution and implementation of these plans.
Crowie continues: “It [finishing in the top half of the final log] shows progression. It indicates to the [Maties Football] Club, technical, and players that we as a group are moving in the right direction. It validates the continuity plan we decided to adopt. It would’ve been easier to change the whole squad and recruit new players, but as a club, we decided to build on the previous season. It also shows that the football program at the university is healthy.”
Sport manager Ellroy Smith unpacked the importance of this result and how it impacts every member of the Maties Football Club.
“Finishing fifth still means a lot to the club after fighting relegation last season. We set out to finish mid-table and we succeeded in our goal. It was important for us to maintain our status. This is a pivotal component within our recruitment approach for our Varsity [USSA] team. Our main objective is and will always be to qualify for the Varsity Sports [Football] competition. One of our strategic objectives is to support student-athletes with the delivery of a world-class holistic high-performance programme.”
No sports team is without off-the-field challenges and Maties FC is a team no different to that. Smith, who is also the USSA Football General Secretary, went on to highlight and elaborate on how they get through difficult times as a team and the importance of support from the top brass at the university.
“As previously mentioned, our object first is to qualify for Varsity Football, but nothing will stop us from competing in the new season or a top-four finish, after all, we are representing a brand (we’re part of the Maroon machine).
“One of [our] biggest challenges are linked to financial sustainability. A lot of teams spend a tremendous amount of money to participate in this league and it is very difficult to compete with that. We lost some players to other clubs but the ones that were loyal and believed in what the club stood for stayed despite this.
“We are grateful for the support of our senior management who are always looking at ways to remedy the situation.”
Smith also touched on and shared the sentiments of Crowie when asked why it is important for Maties FC to do well.
Smith continued: “We would like to see our student-athletes go through their academic program successfully because that’s ultimately what we would like to achieve with our student-athletes. This in return will prove we are running a successful program where our student-athletes are indeed developed holistically.”