Picture: 123RF/BOWIE 15
Picture: 123RF/BOWIE 15

For Hungry Lions‚ the unusually named third-division team from tiny Postmasburg in the Northern Cape‚ meeting Jomo Cosmos in the Nedbank Cup is a rare shot at the SA football limelight.

It is safe to say something big seldom happens in Postmasburg, a mining town in the arid Northern Cape with a population of about 30‚000‚ far smaller than neighbouring cousins Upington and Kimberley.

So the town’s football team being in the last 32 of the Nedbank Cup‚ in a televised game against Cosmos, is a big deal. After all, despite campaigning in the GladAfrica Championship (second tier of SA football)‚ Cosmos remain a big name in the local game, owned and coached as they are by a giant in Jomo Sono.

[For] some of them it’s the first time. Some of them are excited. I just hope the excitement and anxiety does not get the better of them
Henry Basie, Lions coach

“Postmasburg is in the centre between Upington and Kimberley‚” Lions coach Henry Basie said from Potchefstroom‚ where his team took a four-hour bus trip early this week to prepare for most of the squad’s first televised game at Olën Park on Sunday.

ABC Motsepe League club Lions have no relation in sponsorship or ownership with the fast-food chain Hungry Lion. In fact‚ their existence and unusual name predate the food outlet — started in 1997 — by more than a decade.

Hungry Lions were established by Basie’s uncle Stefaans Basie in the 1980s and are nearly 40 years old. Stefaans Basie was an employee then of Spoornet and still works for Transnet. He remains the owner and chair of the team.

Funded by players

Initially they played solely in friendlies and tournaments. In about 2000 they entered organised Local Football Association soccer‚ then the SAB League (fourth division) and in about 2004 “got promoted to what you then called the Vodacom [now the Motsepe] League”‚ Basie said.

The club continues to be funded by players and supporters who have jobs, contributing money when they can.

Most of their players are strictly amateur‚ but they have managed a clubhouse to house their younger players — about 14 are under 23‚ said Basie. They attract one or two modestly paid ageing professionals‚ such as ex-Bloemfontein Celtic winger Moses Spandeel (39)‚ an old friend of Henry Basie‚ to add experience.

Basie (also 39) was a player when Lions progressed through the amateur ranks to the third division. He has his own company‚ in construction and “other things”‚ and has been a coach for about five years.

He has Lions in first place in the Northern Cape‚ on path for the nine-team Motsepe playoffs for promotion to the first division‚ where they narrowly failed in 2014/2015‚ needing a win from their last match but only achieving a draw.

That was the club’s previous crowning glory. Their moment in the limelight against Cosmos will be another.

“Some of the players come from Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates’ MDC [reserve] teams‚ so some are familiar with televised games‚” Basie said.

“[For] some of them it’s the first time. Some of them are excited. I just hope the excitement and anxiety does not get the better of them. But‚ ja‚ they will cope.”

The dream‚ of course, is to go a step further and perhaps meet a PSL glamour team.

“It’s everybody’s dream to play a Chiefs or Pirates‚” Basie said. “When the draw happened everyone was screaming ‘Chiefs!’‚ ‘Pirates!’.”

This week Sono admitted to knowing nothing more about Lions than their name. Given how results have gone against his team in the NFD‚ in which Cosmos are struggling in third-last place‚ he hopes not to be “mauled by them”.

Lions will be out to prove just how hungry they really are.