Ellina Mhlanga and Mehluli Sibanda
NYAMAURU coach, Albert Mutasa, is confident that they will retain the Copa Coca-Cola football tournament trophy when they battle it out at the national finals to take place this week in Kadoma.
The Copa Coca-Cola 15-and-Under boys and girls tournament that kicked-off in May with the zonal games reaches its climax with the national competition to run from today to Saturday in Kadoma following the conclusion of provincial finals.
Nyamauru are the girls defending champions having defeated Mpopoma in last year’s finals staged in Zvishavane.
The provincial winners join boys and girls defending champions, Pamushana and Nyamauru respectively as well as the hosting schools Rimuka 2 High and Jameson High.
Nyamauru returns to this year’s edition seeking to make it two in a row and after a fine run at the provincial finals and their coach Mutasa says they are confident of writing another success story.“We have some youngsters that we have roped into the team and it’s looking promising.
They are playing well and the preparations are going well such that we are hopeful of defending our trophy.
“One of our players, Bethel Kondo, who went to Kenya last year, is doing well, we have some players from last year who are still eligible to play. We have some Form Ones we have roped into the team. “When we went for the provincial games we won all our matches, so we are looking forward to the national finals,” said Mutasa.
The reigning champions are up against Masvingo’s Mwenezi and Tohwe from Matabeleland North in Group D.
Mwenezi beat five-time champions and favourites Chidyamakono in the provincial finals to book their place at the national tournament.
Mutasa said they still have some areas they need to polish up before the final competition but are geared up for the task.
“Some of the players, those that we roped in from the Form Ones, they are still lacking endurance, so there is need for us to work on endurance. Some still have stage fright, so we are just working on that, so that they get used to the system. “When the draw was held (at the launch), we noticed that one of our opponents was going to be from Masvingo. So we were expecting Chidyamakono, so I think we might be a bit lucky and chances are high we can be number one again,” Mutasa said.
In the boys section, Pamushana will battle it out against former champions Rusununguko from Mashonaland East and Guinea Fowl representing Midlands in Group D.
It’s likely to be an interesting Group with Pamushana and Rusununguko having met in the group stages at the national finals last year in Zvishavane. Pamushana went on to beat Guinea Fowl in the final to claim their second Copa Coca-Cola title. Going into this year’s finals they are likely to face tough competition as their opponents will be out for revenge.
Meanwhile, Vee Chibanda, the Coca-Cola Eastern and Central Africa Programme Manager, said they were looking forward to yet another exciting tournament seeing that every school in the country wants to win the Copa Coca-Cola, which is the most celebrated age-group football competition in Zimbabwe. “We are expecting another thrilling tournament this year. Every school wants to win this prestigious tournament and competition is growing with each edition. We have both seasoned campaigners and debutants whose names are hardly known in the schools’ football circles coming to the finals. That on its own shows how diverse and competitive the tournament has become,” Chibanda said.
She indicated that as the bankrollers of the tournament, they are pleased that it is meeting its intended goal, which is to discover football talent.
“As sponsors, we are glad to see the tournament living to its agenda, that of identifying soccer talent. What is most exciting is that we have managed to spread the game across the breadth of the country. Previously, urban-based schools used to dominate but now rural schools coming to the party, making it difficult for anyone to predict the winner,” she said.
The Copa Coca-Cola competition is run in partnership with the National Association of Secondary Heads who are in charge of the administration of the competition. Copa Coca-Cola works in a joint venture with the Government and Zifa to make the tournament one of the leading events in the country’s soccer calendar.
Group A: Tongwe (Matabeleland South), Rujeko (Mashonaland Central), Vimbai (Mashonaland West).
Group B: Hippo Valley (Masvingo), Chapwanya (Manicaland) Prince Edward (Harare).
Group C: Rimuka 2 High (host school), Somvubu (Matabeleland North), Mpopoma (Bulawayo).
Group D: Pamushana (defending champions), Rusununguko (Mashonaland East), Guinea Fowl (Midlands).
Group A: Rimuka 2 High (Mashonaland West), Chinyenyetu (Midlands), Nkankezi (Matabeleland South).
Group B: Gotora (Manicaland), Chipindura (Mashonaland Central), Mucheke (Mashonaland East).
Group C: Jameson (host school), Mpopoma (Bulawayo), Dzivarasekwa 2 (Harare).
Group D: Mwenezi (Masvingo), Nyamauru (defending champions), Tohwe (Matabeleland North).