By Ellina Mhlanga
ZIMBABWE’S Copa Coca-Cola Under-15 girls’ team coach Sisasenkosi Mapungwana believes their participation at the inaugural Africa Cup in Nakuru, Kenya, was a confidence booster for the young players.
Zimbabwe fielded both the boys and girls teams’ at the inaugural Copa Coca-Cola Africa Cup which featured teams from Angola, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa and the hosts Kenya.
However, only Zimbabwe and Kenya had girls’ teams competing, so they played two matches against each other. Kenya won both matches beating the visitors 2-0 in the first encounter and 1-0 in the last one.
The tournament that started on December 10 ended on Saturday and the girls team returned home yesterday while the boys side are expected to arrive this morning.
Mapungwana said although they went down to the hosts, their participation was a confidence booster for most of the girls.
“Looking at our first game that we had, we were a bit overpowered by the Kenyan girls. But we had to settle down and look at our weaknesses and then the team was in co-ordination. We were not supposed to be beaten in the last game but we just made a small mistake. When I look at the game itself, the girls were up there in terms of confidence.
“Their confidence and their morale has been boosted because in Kenya they were not playing inter-schools, it was not a national competition. But they were competing against another country.
“So their morale is boosted and we look at one of our players Emaculate Zulu, she got the Most Valuable Player award and there were some other players that were identified there. That made them realise that they can rise above the level they think they are in,” said Mapungwana. Zulu said she was excited to have had the opportunity to represent the country in such a competition.
“I am so happy to be the most valuable player because I made my country proud, my school and even my parents. I want to thank Coca-Cola who supported us to go to Kenya.
“I was so excited because it was my first time to compete at such a stage I want to be one of the best players in the country. I want to play for the national team,” said Zulu.
The boys team could not progress to the quarter-finals after they settled for a goalless draw against Zambia in Pool B. They then lost 0-3 to Nigeria.
Zimbabwe had been drawn in Pool A against Mozambique and Uganda but there were changes. Kenya won both the boys and girls competition.
Coca-Cola senior brand manager Vee Chibanda said the teams did well considering some of the countries had Under-16s for this competition.
“So we had other countries that had a challenge that they don’t have lower kids because this is the first time we are meeting with some of these countries. So we had some who were Under-16 and then we had our children who are Under-15.
“But obviously because we have started this we will look at agreeing on the new age-group for the next coming year so that at least we have the same age-groups.
“I am very proud of the teachers they are doing a wonderful job in training them and we believe that we will continue giving this exposure to the children,” said Chibanda.