Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
FOR some schools the journey to this year’s Copa Coca-Cola Under-15 boys and girls football tournament national finals began last Thursday with the zonal competitions in some of the provinces. This year’s national finals will be staged in Zvishavane in the Midlands province from July 12 to 14 with 12 boys and 12 girls teams taking part.
The National Association of Secondary School Heads had scheduled all zonal competitions to start last Thursday but national head in charge of Nash football Albert Mucheka revealed that some of the provinces adjusted the programme due to other commitments while provinces like Harare and Bulawayo start their competition at district level.
Some of the provinces that had their zonals include Mashonaland East, Masvingo, Mashonaland Central, Matabeleland South and Manicaland.
Mucheka said although some of the provinces will have their zonal events on a different date they will ensure all the games preceding the national finals are completed in time.
“They definitely will be done in such a manner that they will not affect the national finals. Harare and Bulawayo do not have zonals, they begin at district levels.
“I think everyone is looking forward to the Copa Coca-Cola tournament that is the mainly sponsored tournament on our calendar. So we are looking forward to have a very competitive tournament.
“Of course here in Zvishavane, we will be hosting everyone wants to do their best,” said Mucheka. Mucheka, who is based in Zvishavane said in terms of preparations they are just making final touches.
“I think everything seems to be in shape at the moment, we are almost there,” said Mucheka. Mandava High School will host the boys while girls will be at Zvishavane High School.
The two hosting schools and the defending champions — Rusununguko and Chidyamakono will be joined by the provincial winners at the national finals.
The country’s biggest schools football tournament has proved to be a springboard for a number of players that went on to establish successful football careers in and outside the country.
This year marks the 30th edition for the boys competition and the girls will be celebrating eight years since they first became part of the event.
While the focus has been mainly on the boys because of the high profile players that came through this event, the girls competition is also making its strides with players such as Greater Bande emerging from this platform.
Bande, who captained Vainona to two titles, in 2011 and 2012 has featured in the Mighty Warriors in the past and is currently turning out for Weerams.
Bande believes the inclusion of girls in the tournament has had a positive impact on the involvement of girls at school level.
“When we played in the first edition we were excited. It was our first time taking part in the tournament. We played as a team and managed to win the title.
“I think the involvement of girls in the tournament led to most schools taking girls soccer seriously. Before that some schools did not take it seriously but now because of the Copa Coca-Cola tournament they take it seriously,” said Bande.