There were smiles all round at this year’s annual PG Bison Ugie Knockout Cup on 8 and 9 June, as community members from four towns came together for two days of sport and socializing, hosted by PG Bison.

PG Bison is the sole sponsor of this event, and preparations begin six months beforehand, when meetings are held with the South African Football Association Members and representatives from the four towns that come together for the Cup: Ugie, Maclear, Elliot and Mt Fletcher.

Investing in community development

Ugie is a town in the Joe Gqabi District Municipality in the Eastern Cape. PG Bison is the single largest employer in the area, where we have a board factory and plantations.

Pieter de Wet, General Manager at PG Bison Ugie, says that the company tries to be a good neighbour to the community in which it operates, as well as the three surrounding towns.

The Knockout Cup is a highlight on the calendar. It started out as a soccer tournament, but has grown to include a netball tournament too.

The tournament is the culmination of a wider series of games among all the local teams that are not part of an official league. The top two teams from each town progress to the Ugie Knockout Cup. “People appreciate the event and thank us for hosting it,” says Nomvuyo Mehlo, Ugie Cluster Liaison Manager. “As well as prize money for the first and second-place teams in both sports, we also sponsor the sports kits, entertainment and food.”

Pieter says that the event is not something PG Bison does in isolation, but part of a wider effort to support the local community, which includes sponsoring soccer and rugby development initiatives. “This is the flagship soccer event, and this year we had a small VIP tent where we invited some local community leaders to join us to be part of what PG Bison is doing,” he says.

“There are two teams from each of the towns near our plantations per sport, so a total of eight teams for soccer and eight for netball taking part,” says Nomvuyo. “We also have some fun soccer games between PG Bison employees, and the older veterans from the communities, which aren’t part of the tournament, but are great ‘curtain-opening’ events for the main soccer games.”

A whole weekend of fun

The event takes place across an entire weekend. On Friday afternoon, PG Bison employees from the Ugie Cluster, which incorporates the Ugie Board Plant and the North East Cape Forest, play a soccer match against each other for fun. The winning team wins a cup that has been rotating since the tournament’s inception.

On the Saturday, we kick off early, with the teams gathering from 7.30am to get ready for the first netball and soccer matches of the day. “By that time, nutritious meals are being served for the early birds – mostly children from Ugie,” says Nomvuyo. “The matches kick off at 8.30am and continue throughout the day.”

As the day progresses, supporters from each of the four towns arrive. “The netball courts are busy with both Junior and Senior games, whilst at the same time the soccer field is busy with the soccer games,” Nomvuyo says. She adds that PG Bison also provides entertainment for supporters and the local children in the form of jumping castles and trampolines.

The netball tournament wraps up on the Saturday, and on the Sunday, there’s a fun match between the veterans before the finals of the soccer tournament. “This match is enjoyed by many and the teams that participate both receive medals and the winning team receives a trophy,” says Nomvuyo.

Highlights of the 2019 Cup

Nomvuyo says that over the two-day event this year, PG Bison served up 7000 meals to those attending, as well as distributing 1000 blankets to children from the communities to keep them warm this winter. “The young children enjoy that they are part of the event, even though they are not playing in the tournament,” she says.

PG Bison CEO Gerhard Victor and Executives Brand Engelbrecht, Sibusiso Dlamini and Levine Morgan attended the event, as well as the Ugie Cluster Management. PG Bison also invited the Elundini Mayor, the Municipal Manager, as well as two councillors.  Due to previous commitments, only Councillor Dumisani Mvumvu could make it to the Ugie Knock Out Cup. He said he was really impressed with community engagement.

In the Junior Teams netball tournament, Maclear was the runner-up and the Mt Fletcher Eagles team took first prize. For the adult netball team, the runner-up was Elliot and the winning team was Mt Fletcher. “The runner-up teams, both senior and junior, all receive silver medals, a trophy as well as R1000.00 cash prize each,” says Nomvuyo. “The winning teams, also both senior and junior, receive gold medals, a trophy and a cash prize of R2500.00.”

The soccer continued until 4pm on Saturday, and by the time the finals came around on Sunday, the fans were abuzz with excitement. “This year, the teams that made the final match were Royal Hearts from Mt Fletcher, as well as Junior Chiefs from Ugie,” says Nomvuyo. “The runner up for the tournament was Junior Chiefs, with a score of two goals, who received silver medals, a trophy and a cash prize of R2000.00. The winner for the Ugie Knock Out Cup 2019 was the Royal Hearts team from Mt Fletcher, who received gold medals, a trophy, and a cash prize of R4500.00. They won with an impressive score of seven goals.”

Congratulations to everyone who played, and a big thank you to all who made the event possible and those who came to support the teams in action!