As a rural school, far away from the mainstream of school sporting action, the Danone Nations Cup has been a great opportunity for them. This is the third year that they are participating and they made it to Western Cape provincial finals last year where two of their players were spotted and invited to a coaching session with Mamelodi Sundowns, which has had a great impact on them as individuals, and on the school.
The two,Wanda Mkhosi and Sphamandla Hlangabeza got a taste at Sundowns of what it takes to be a professional player. They saw how hard you are expected to work, received professional coaching thereby learning new skills, and came back fitter and faster. This was an experience these young rural boys will never forget.
They gained the respect of not just the school, but the whole community, and all their team mates look up to them. Although both are still at the school, they cannot participate in the tournament this year as they are 13 years old now. They will be on hand to give advice and guidance to the 2016 team though.
Mzolxolo is one of 11 schools in their district and they are hoping their neighbours will all be entering the Danone Nations Cup this year.
Every year is a new challenge, says coach, Sidadalo Mehlomakhulu, so although the team did well last year, he won’t be paying much attention to that. “New players come in and we have selected our team and are busy with training sessions’, he said.
Mehlomakhulu is a teacher at the school, with no coaching experience, but with a passion for the game. He is excited to have two players – forwards Qhamani Nogqala and Hlomla Stokwe – back from last year’s team.
“They have the experience of being part of the tournament and know what to expect. They saw the quality of soccer from the other schools and will be able to mentor the new players.”
Among the new players in the team, Mehlomakhulu said, Yethu Maseko stands out. “He is good at dribbling and communicates well with the other players.”
“The Danone Nations Cup tournament is a great opportunity for kids to learn more about the game,” he said. “Our young soccer players look forward to this tournament every year. It has helped grow the sport at the school as we get lots of kids attending trials and following the team. Then there are the scouts that attend the provincial finals and give youngsters insight into the game at the top level. We are all teachers with little coaching experience and these scouts also give us valuable football advice to take home and try out.
“We encourage more schools to enter. It is a great experience.”
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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