Milano juniors rule under-13 roost

Milano United coaches Basil Jansen, left, and Ronald George give their charges some sage advice during the halftime team talk during their final match of the Tournament by the Sea.

Coach Basil Puzzy Jansen and his Milano United side were deserved winners of this year’s Strandfontein under-13 Tournament by the Sea after beating Khayelitsha’s Ulana FC 1-0 in the final at Ikamva in Parow, on Sunday.

The Grassy Park outfit proved to be the best side in the competition, winning all their matches as they marched to the final. They also played some of the best football throughout the competition.

They kicked their campaign off on a good note, beating Valencia 1-0 in their opening match on Saturday. From there on, the side never looked back as they played their way into the final.

The side, however, didn’t have a smooth journey to the final. Fish Hoek, for instance, gave Milano a serious run for their money in their semi-final encounter. Fish Hoek went to their semi-final encounter with their heads held high, having beaten favourites Ajax Cape Town in the quarter final. And, they did trouble Milano.

Both sides played a similar brand of football, which was characterised by good ball-playing skills, quick inter-passing in the middle and hard running in the wings.

That made it difficult to see who had the edge over the other as both sides matched each other in every department. Milano, in the end, won 1-0 to progress to the final.

Jansen said they studied the Fish Hoek side and tried to exploit any weaknesses they might have.

“I think we were a little bit stale in this game and Fish Hoek proved to be a good ball-playing side. We realised that they use one side of the field at the time and launch their attacks from there before shifting to the other, so we had to find ways to counter that,” he said.

“Our plan going to this match was to keep it solid at the back and use our big men to create openings up front. The boys did well and created a lot of opportunities,” he said.

The final, against Khayelitsha’s Ulana, presented Milano with a different challenge. Led by their influential captain Yiva Ulana, the Khayelitsha side caused havoc of their one, en route to the final, beating some teams with large margins in the process. Their dreadlocked skipper, Yiva, was particularly impressive as their game revolved around him.

The two sides were once again evenly matched as they went toe-to-toe but it was, in the end, Milano who emerged victorious, winning 1-0 to claim the title.

Jansen said the plan going to the tournament was to allow the youngsters freedom to enjoy the game and express themselves.

This, he said, was important because the players performed better when they were enjoying what they were doing.

That’s exactly what the players did. They were able to express themselves – displaying some level of creativity and industriousness in their approach – throughout the tournament.

“Of course we committed some mistakes here and there but, overall, the boys did well.

“They are still young and I know they will get better as they continue playing the game,” he said.