Ricky Zililo in Kadoma
NATIONAL finals of the 31st edition of the Copa Coca-Cola Under-15 boys and girls’ football tournament start this morning here with 24 teams vying for top honours.
Rimuka 2 High School plays host to the boys’ finals, with the girls battling it out at Jameson High School.
Unlike last year’s edition which was marred by age cheating with more than a quarter of participants disqualified, vetting went well yesterday.
Arthur Maphosa, the National Association of Secondary Heads (Nash) president, was pleased with the vetting process and commended schools for adhering to the tenets of fair play.
“Everyone is ready for the games and we’re looking forward to great days of competition.
I must commend the headmasters, sports directors and coaches for ensuring that we protect brand Nash as well as that of our sponsor by bringing correct aged athletes.
To the players, we wish them all the best and we want them to adhere to principles of fair play,” said Maphosa.
Group stages and semi-finals will be played today, with the final being played tomorrow, before players and officials return to their bases on Sunday.
Boys’ champions, Pamushana High, are seeking to defend their title in what appears to be a group of death, which also has Midlands champions Guinea Fowl and Rusununguko from Mashonaland East in Pool D.
Four-time winners Hippo Valley make a return to the national finals after a long absence and have been grouped in Pool B with Chapwanya of Manicaland and Prince Edward from Harare.
Bulawayo champions, Mpopoma High, who are aiming to go past the group stages, are in Pool C with hosts Rimuka 2 High and Somvubu High from Matabeleland North.
Pool A has debutants Tongwe from Matabeleland South, Rujeko of Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West’s Vimbai.
In the girls’ competition, first timers Nkankezi High of Matabeleland South are in Pool A with Rimuka 2 of Mashonaland West and Midlands champions Chinyenyetu.
Pool B has Gotora (Manicaland), Chipindura (Mashonaland Central) and Mucheke (Mashonaland East), while hosts Jameson are paired with last year’s losing finalists Mpopoma and Harare’s Dzivarasekwa 2.
The last group has defending champions Nyamauru of Manicaland, Mwenezi (Masvingo) and Matabeleland North’s Tohwe. — @ZililoR.