Monday, April 25, 2016
Fifteen years later and Danone Nations Cup player now coaching KZN team in the same tournament
Thamsanqa Zondi, manager and coach of the Piet Retief Primary School about to embark on their 2016 Danone Nations Cup campaign in the uMgungundlovu district, in KwaZulu-Natal, actually played in the under-12 soccer tournament in 2000, possibly the first graduate of the tournament to coach a participating team.
That was back when he was 11 years old and a pupil at Esgodini Primary School in Pietermaritzburg. He recalls that the team that year made it into the KwaZulu-Natal provincial finals, but were knocked out at that stage so he never got to the nationals and an opportunity to go to the world finals of the tournament in France. The world finals this year, involving the national champions of all the 32 entering nations will be in France again this year.
“Looking back, that experience was one the highlights of my life and it opened up many opportunities for me,” he said. “Through the Danone Nations Cup I was exposed to different schools with different skills, different approaches to the game and of course I made friends.”
As a result of playing in the competition, I went to high school with a more determined approach to soccer, which led to me being invited to join the Jomo Sono Academy in 2005."
Zondi was selected for the Jomo Cosmos first team in 2007 and from 2008 till 2011 he played for Umbelebele Jomo Cosmos in Swaziland. He returned to play for Jomo Cosmos in South Africa and later for Maritzburg United.
While at Cosmos he started studying and now has a Diploma in Sports Management from Rosebank College. He is currently completing a teaching degree at UNISA.
He started teaching at ML Sultan Secondary School last year, and was an external coach for Piet Retief, before joining the school as a sports coordinator this year.
“I think that having firsthand experience of this tournament has helped me to prepare the players for what is to come,” he said.
Piet Retief is 55 years old and traditionally they played just rugby and cricket but last year they introduced soccer.
“We didn’t enter the tournament last year because the players were new to soccer and they needed to learn the basics,” Zondi said. “They are young and it’s important to teach them correctly before they pick up bad habits. So we focused on fundamentals such as passing the ball.
“We are ready for the Danone Nations Cup this year, however, since the school will be taking part for the first time I want the players to enjoy the experience and have fun.”
Zondi is hoping that they can go as far as possible without the boys feeling too pressurised. “The first thing that they need to learn is confidence because it can take them far and they need to understand that they won’t become superstars overnight. They need to work hard,” he said.
The Danone Nations Cup had a great impact in his life and he is hoping it will do the same for his players. “These days most kids don’t have much too look forward to and some think they have to join bad company in order for them to be liked or popular. Danone care about their communities, it’s a great opportunity for these boys.”
Danone Southern Africa is part of the Danone Group, one of the fastest-growing food companies in the world. Danone is present in over 120 countries across all continents. With 160 plants and around 100,000 employees, the Danone Group is the number one worldwide for Fresh Dairy Products. Danone’s mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible.
One of the core values of the Danone Nations Cup tournament is to encourage young people to believe in their dreams. Through this initiative Danone offers a sporting event that reaches out to and inspires millions of children all over the world