Paul Kilfoil's World of Travel, Technology & Sport

Posted on  by Paul Kilfoil.
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Cape Town City was a professional football club that was founded in September 1961 and competed in South Africa's National Football League (NFL) from 1962 to 1977. In 1978 the various different leagues that operated during South Africa's Apartheid era were dissolved and a single professional league was formed - the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL, later renamed to the National Soccer League (NSL) and finally the Premier Soccer League (PSL)). Many of the football clubs that competed in the separate leagues prior to the formation of the NPSL survived the transition and are still prospering today - clubs like Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are household names in South Africa and command massive followings.

A remarkable return : Cape Town City top the premier league in December 2016

However, Cape Town City was not one of these. The club attempted to compete in the NPSL but was unable to sustain itself financially and folded in 1979 [Aside : Four out of the five professional football clubs in Cape Town did not survive the transition to an amalgamated, non-racial league - Cape Town City, Cape Town Spurs, Hellenic and Glenville were dissolved ; only Santos survived and still does so today, albeit no longer in the premier league]. This was a huge blow to the many devoted fans of Cape Town City who flocked to Hartleyvale, City's home stadium in the inner-city suburb of Observatory, to watch their team play. Ajax Cape Town, a new club that was formed in 1999 under the guidance of the famous Dutch team Ajax Amsterdam, was reasonably successful in the PSL but never won over the hearts and minds of Cape Town's football fans.

But in a miraculous and almost unbelievable turn of events, Cape Town City reappeared on the football scene in 2016, 37 years after it had folded. John Comitis, a local businessman and football lover, purchased the franchise of Mpumalanga Black Aces, a club from the north-east of South Africa that competed in the Premier Soccer League. Comitis had also had the foresight to retain ownership of the Cape Town City brand name, so he renamed his newly-acquired team to "Cape Town City" and relocated the entire club, all players, staff and equipment, to Cape Town. The new club played its first league match on 23 August 2016 against Polokwane City and celebrated with a 2-0 win.

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Most football pundits thought this was a flash in the pan and that Cape Town City would struggle to survive. But remarkably, City's run of success has continued and in early December they were on top of the PSL log as well as being through to the final of the Telkom Knockout Cup. In November and December City strung together a nine-game unbeaten streak (eight wins and a draw) ; it is still early days and there are 18 matches remaining in the 2016/2017 league programme, but the new club has shown in the most emphatic fashion that they are certainly not a flash in the pan.

John Comitis' vision was to create a club that would capture the imagination and passion of Cape Town's football fans, and in that he has succeeded. I wish him and his club every success ; I am one of the supporters and will be following every match in future. Go City!

[Update 1] I went to Cape Town City's last home match of the 2016/2017 season at the Cape Town Stadium (they beat Free State Stars 1-0); a full report of my experience can be found here.

[Update 2] City eventually finished third in the final 2016/2017 league standings - two losses in their last few matches (against Maritzburg United and Polokwane City) cost them any chance of winning the title. But third place is still a remarkable performance from a club playing its very first season in the Premier League, and guarantees them a spot in the 2018 CAF Confederation Cup.

  © Paul Kilfoil, Cape Town, South Africa