KIDO Coetzee is the manager of the Vredendal Noord Laërskool under-12 soccer team that will be playing in the Western Cape provincial finals of the Danone Nations Cup tournament in Stellenbosch this coming Saturday.
He admits to being a big fan of the outgoing Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and he tries to apply Sir Alex’s way of doing things as he prepares his players for what is going to be the biggest tournament of their lives so far.
“I believe we need a genius like Ferguson to make a difference to African football,” Coetzee said. “I believe that all primary school coaches should watch his matches and observe his coaching style, this way we can also breed great soccer players.”
Vredendal Noord are training for two hours a day ahead of the provincial finals and Coetzee says he is trying make training as interesting and fun as possible to keep the players interested and in peak form.
“To do this we bring in coaches from local teams in the community to come and work with the team and give them fresh ideas. For the last two weekends we have arranged friendly matches with local schools in the community.”
This is the second year that the school has been in the competition and the first time they have advanced beyond the cluster level. The players are all very excited as many of them have not been outside of their district before.
“We have told them that the eventual winners of this competition will be going to London as South Africa’s representatives and we have been using that as an educational opportunity – getting them to use the school’s computer room to research more about England and London.
“These kids have never flown before and some of them have never been to Gauteng. So we use places like Boksburg, Reiger Park (where the national finals are going to be held) on maps in order to teach them about our country as a whole.
The Saal brothers, Elverno and Jadien, are the key players in the team, Coetzee says. Elverno is a striker and Jadien a defender. “We build our game plan around them.”
The story of the Saal brothers is quite typical of the families at the school. They were raised by a single unemployed mother who survives on temporary jobs in order for them to come to school well dressed and well mannered.
“One of the biggest challenges we face as a school is the fact that these kids live in impoverished conditions,” Coetzee said. “Most of them depend on government grants in order to eat and have clothes to wear. We have to borrow soccer kit from the community teams for them to play in.”
Vredendal Noord Laërskool was established in 1987 and offers a broad portfolio of sports like chess, cross country athletics, rugby, netball, table tennis, soccer and Indigenous games.
The players take the game very seriously, Coetzee said. “What I like about them is that they play as a unit and before they are team mates they are brothers. They are very obedient and respect each other a lot, and give the captain the respect he deserves.