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Crystal Lake want to copy Dondol but face Bucs test

Undeterred Mpumalanga minnows ready to compete after long dispute

Neville Khoza Journalist
Crystal Lake first team players.
Crystal Lake first team players.

It's only seven months since Orlando Pirates' Nedbank Cup opponents, Crystal Lake from Mpumalanga, were formed by the department of basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga in July.

The amateur side now have the opportunity to change their lives in the Nedbank Cup when they host Pirates in the last 32 at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday (3pm).

Pirates had to wait a bit to find out who they would be facing after a dispute over the result between Crystal Lake and Middleburg United, which was taken to Safa arbitration.

Lake won the match 1-0 to qualify for the last 32, but Middleburg contested the result, alleging the physiotherapist on their opponents' bench during the game was not registered as the Crystal Lake one and took the matter to a Safa disciplinary hearing.

That was dismissed but Middleburg took the matter to a Safa arbitration. This was also dismissed on Saturday with costs to pave the way for Crystal Lake to start preparing for their biggest game against the defending champions after they were confirmed at the weekend as Pirates' opponents.

The club is based in Bushbuckridge and plays in the Safa Ehlanzeni region. Mhlanga said qualifying for the last 32 is the biggest achievement for his young team and promised they were going all out for a win on Saturday.

"The exposure the boys will get is what we needed," Mhlanga told Sowetan on Thursday as his players were preparing to come face to face with their idols at Pirates.

"The idea is not to make money but to help create opportunities for the young people. One day perhaps somebody will assist us, but for now, friends and family donations have helped the team go on for seven months.

"It's extremely difficult, but their dedication is something out of this world.

"The team has been in camp for two weeks and have played friendly matches with various teams in different leagues as part of the preparation."

Mhlanga said they were also inspired by Dondol Stars, who reached the quarterfinals of the Nedbank Cup last season before losing to the Buccaneers on penalties.

"Dondol play in a higher league, ABC Motsepe League. Crystal Lake defeated an ABC Motsepe League team [Middleburg] to make it to the last 32. That's a major achievement like I said."

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