THE Limpopo Provincial Finals of the under-12 Danone Nations Cup tournament take place at the Seshego Stadium in Polokwane this coming Saturday.
A school that has reached this stage of the tournament for the first time is Shesego’s Rev M.P Malatjie Primary School who will be representing the Capricorn District and their coach, Phillip Nkwe, is looking forward to the advantages that playing at home will give his team.
“There will not be any travelling and settling in to worry about,” he said. “With kids this young, travelling often unsettles them as they are in unfamiliar territory.”
Nkwe says preparations for the provincial finals began very early this year and they are putting more time and effort into training. “We have been playing in the Danone Nations Cup for years now and we decided to change strategy to enable us to take the next step forward as we have always been knocked out at cluster level,” he said, “So we have increased our training programme. Our main focus this year is speed and fitness as I have seen from past experience that we have not matched up to some of the other schools in this regard and this led to our defence struggling, and the attack fails because they lack the stamina. Getting to this stage of the tournament proves that hard work and believing in your dreams is important.”
There are challenges coaching children at this level admits Nkwe; “Firstly, I still find myself teaching basics to some players because they don’t train while they are on holiday and don’t play for local soccer clubs so they come back rusty and forget the basics. Secondly, I am a teacher first and there are times when I have work commitments and ask the youngsters to train on their own but this hasn’t worked as they are not disciplined enough to manage themselves. I am now grooming those that I see with leadership qualities to take charge when I am not around.”
Nkwe is a believer in the enormous role of soccer in a child’s development process. “I encourage all our students to participate in a sport,” he said. “It helps them improve their social skills and keeps them healthy and fit,”
He singles out his captain, midfielder Seepe Selemela as a player to watch. “He is skilled, confident, determined and takes instructions well. He always plays to win. He is passionate about the game and wants to become a professional player when he finishes school.”
Nkwe admits to being a soccer fanatic. “I have no formal coaching qualifications but I watch as many games as possible, live and on TV. My knowledge has got me into the provincial finals so I think I am on the right track. I’m looking forward to meeting up with other coaches, we are in a competition but we sometimes share ideas and insights on coaching. At the end of the day the team that will win the provincial final will represent Limpopo, so helping each other out is not a bad thing at all.”
Playing sport is also about making friends and Nkwe encourages his team to be social with other schools. “Just because we are competing against each other it does not mean that we need to be enemies,” he said.
The other five provinces are currently still holding their qualifiers.