By FOCUS REPORTER
The Copa Coca-Cola provincial finals continue this weekend,with the top regional KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape Under-18 schools fighting it out to win the R40 000 as the provincial winners and get the opportunity to compete in the National Finals.
The newly structured KZN Province will see 12 regional finalists competing
at the Veldevlei Sports Complex in Richards bay on Saturday.
The teams thathave qualified to date include: Hosts Welabasha High (Empangeni Region),Ubuhlebomzinyathi High (Amajuba Region), Siyahlomula High (MgungundlovuRegion), Groutville High (Ilembe Region), KW FICA High (Ugu Region), Bechet Secondary (Umlazi Region), Shayamoya High (Sisonke Region), Kwa Ntatshana High (Uthukela Region), Enyanyeni combined school (Umzinyathi Region),Ezibukweni High (Ubombo Region), Zamangothando High (Vryheid Region), and Umqhele High (Pinetown Region).
Last year’s KZN provincial winners, Tisand Technical High School from Empangeni Region, did not qualify for the 2011 provincial finals. In fact,there are no previous provincial winners competing which will make the
tournament that much more interesting as the playing field is level.
The other soccer skirmish is set to happen on Saturday at Mzamonhle Stadium in Burgersdorp. Dalibaso High School from OR Tambo Region is the current champion and the challenge is on to upstage the school and represent the Eastern Cape in the National finals.
Among those who are looking forward to Saturday’s event in Eastern Cape are the players from Ncedo High School in the Nelson Mandela Region.
Luck has not quite been on their side for the past couple of years (finishing 7th overall in the National finals in 2009 and being knocked out in the provincial finals in 2010), but team captain, Sakhile Nkewana ,who will play on the right wing on Saturday, says that the team is ready for action: “I am
very excited to be playing in Copa Coca-Cola tournament.
This will be my third year in the competition which gives me an advantage as I know what to
expect so I would like the team to go far – even win the National Finals.”
Nkewana, has made quite a name for himself after clinching the Copa Coca-Cola Nelson Mandela region Top Goal Scorer Award during the regional finals that took place in Port Elizabeth last weekend.
Ncedo coach, Sphiwo Njingila, is also confident of his school’s success and praised Nkewana for his ability to show leadership on the field and his talent in being able to change the formation of the game when needed.
Saturday will also see 5 other teams from each of the Eastern Cape regions competing in the provincial finals: Magadla High School (Alfred Nzo Region),East London High School (Amathole Region), Joe Slovo High School (Chris Hani Region), Ndamase Senior Secondary School (OR Tambo Region) and Igqili Senior
Secondary School (Ukhahlamba Region).
But there is more to Copa Coca-Cola than finding the top Under 18 schoolteam. It also creates the platform for high school players that wish to progress with a career in professional football to be seen by scouts from SAFA as well as the PSL and First Division teams.
“Through this football programme we are focusing on development,” said Themba Nobanda, Brand
Manager of Coca-Cola South Africa. “While we sponsor the sport at the highest level through tournaments such as the World Cup, Coca-Cola realizes that this tournament would not be possible without a strong development
programme in place to identify talent to be nurtured and turned into professionals and role models to bring success to the national teams.”
It is estimated that approximately 60 000 youngsters from more than 3 000 schools have already participated in this year’s event, which kicked off in February at Cluster level. The winning team will receive R150 000 for a school legacy project of their choice, second place winners get R100 000,third place finishers R60 000.
There are three provincial winners that are guaranteed a place in the final including: Mothlodi (Gauteng), Freddie Sithole High School (Mpumalanga) and Kakamas high School (Northern Cape).
Nobanda is upbeat about the progress of the tournament. “Over the years Copa Coca-Cola has unearthed a number of youngsters that have gone on to become professional players – including Mandla Masango of Kaizer Chiefs, Vasco da Gama’s Excellent Walaza and Andile Jali who competes for Orlando Pirates and
is also a Bafana Bafana player. This year will be no different.
Last weekend saw our first three provincial finals happening and we saw scouts from PSL clubs as well as soccer academies and we expect to see the same this weekend. There will also be an added attraction at some of the provincial finals with the surprise appearances of former Leeds and Bafana Bafana player, Lucas Radebe, who is also Copa Coca-Cola ambassador.”
Fans will receive a free ice cold 300ml Coca-Cola on arrival and a DJ willkeep the crowds entertained throughout the day. Community members from all the regions are encouraged to come and see future football stars in action.
Copa Coca-Cola action will also take place at a regional level this weekend:
Friday:Zwelihle Stadium (Overberg,Western Cape),Lulekani Stadium(Mopanie,Limpopo)
Saturday:Bhongolethu Stadium (Eden,Western Cape),Seshego Ground C (Capricorn,Limpopo)
and Ephraim Mogale Stadium (Waterberg, Limpopo).