From the news desk

Santos take on tough ulema in soccer match

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While some were out of practise and others a bit heavier than before, spirits were still high as several ex-professionals and members of the local ulema rolled back the years on Friday, squaring off in a captivating and exciting game of football at the 2015 VOC Festival. The two sides, one comprising retired stars from local side Santos and the other hand-selected shuyookh from the community, battled to a 2-2 draw before the Santos side emerged victorious on penalties.


Despite their win, the former pros faced a stubborn resistance throughout the game from the ulema side. Former Santos player and legend, Edries Burton was one of those who took to the field on Friday, saying he was pleasantly surprised by the challenge posed by their opponents. He said it was a great occasion for many of the ex-players to get together and play once again.

The ‘golden oldies’ from Santos

“It was all part of the fun, and I think the crowd really enjoyed themselves seeing the ulema, and obviously the former Santos legends as well. It was good to see the guys and bring back some memories,” he said, adding that with the ulema team having greatly improved from previous years, there was a chance they could take victory next year around.
Burton emphasised the huge importance of events such as the VOC Festival for a local community built on unity.

“These are the types of events that can bring back the community as a unit. As they say unity is strength, so hopefully we can bring back the old days,” he added.

One of the stars of the ulema side, Sheikh Rashied Dien said his side had done well to keep up with the former footballers although largely helped by the constant substitutions to keep the team fresh.

“The game brings back a lot of memories, and it is a way of bringing the ulema and a lot of people in the Western Cape together. This event is really good for keeping up that spirit,” he said.

The game itself attracted a sizable crowd, and Dien attributed this to the fact that many in the community were ‘heart and soul’ VOC supporters. With community members accustomed to seeing many of the prominent scholars taking to the mimbars on Friday’s to deliver their lectures, such events gave them an opportunity to see the ulema in a different light.

Shaykh Riad Fataar after the match
Shaykh Riad Fataar after the match

Captaining the ulema side was a lively Sheikh Riad Fataar, who joked that he could barely remember the final outcome of the penalty shootout. Fataar, also one of the standout players on the day, praised the ulema side, many of whom rarely got the opportunity to get to exercise, for giving the Santos side a real challenge. He noted that in previous games, their team had always been convincingly beaten.

“We had a lot more subs, and sometimes we had even more men on the field. At the end of the day it was an opportunity for the ulema to mix with the ordinary people, to be amongst the community, and share the same platform and enjoyment,” said a buoyant Fataar, adding that the ulema were seeking to show that they could come out and share in the fun in a halal manner.

He added that he would look forward to the possibility of an ulema vs VOC staff match at future festivals.

“All I know is that VOC staff lost the last time against us, but we will have to bring the ulema in 3 months before the time and first practice,” he joked.
The VOC festival takes place at the Vygieskraal Stadium from the 7th-10th May, with a host of exciting activities, entertainment scheduled throughout the weekend. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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