Tuesday, May 30, 2017

School from remote Mpumalanga area will be travelling to Gauteng to represent the province at the Danone Nations Cup national finals – a step closer to qualifying for the world finals

The Danone Nations Cup competition takes the beautiful game to the most remote parts of the country, giving kids who love soccer the opportunity to play the game and follow their dreams.

Every year, schools from the poorest rural areas test themselves against those with better resources and facilities and triumph and go on to represent South Africa in the world finals.

This past weekend Sekusile Primary School from Kwalugedlane in the Ehanzeni region, defied the odds to win the competition’s Mpumalanga provincial final in Middelburg.

The school is based in a rural area and most of the players live in extreme poverty. Most survive on welfare grants and come from orphaned homes. Three of the boys, one being the goalkeeper, played barefoot in the finals.

Yet, they beat former Danone Nations Cup national champions, Daniye Primary School, in a penalty shoot out, to win the Mpumalanga finals. 

Daniye and Sekusile met in the first game of the day and Daniye won 2-0.

Coach Edward Phakula said that the boys went into the game very nervous as they knew that Daniye have been very successful in the DNC in the past. They went to the competition’s world finals in London in 2012.

“We made too many technical errors,” Phakula said. “We knew we needed to speak to the boys, motivate them and correct our mistakes very quickly. We bounced back and beat Ndawonye in our second game and drew with Robert Curruthers to finish second on the log.”

In the final, Sekusile was ready for Daniye, who had won their 3 games to finish top of the log. The team’s manager, Meshack Mathonsi said they owe a lot of their success to midfielder Tembinkosi Tiywane who was level headed, distributed the ball well and passed accurately.

Sekusile has been competing in the tournament since its inception in 2000 and this is the first time they have made the national finals. Mathonsi now admits that it is back to the drawing board. “We will gather and put a strategy together for the national finals as we know it will be a completely different ball game,” he said. “We will be changing our game plan and work on a more aggressive approach to score more goals.”

Watching from the stands was 16 year old Njombo Mabunda who captained the Daniye team that went to London in 2012.  He is currently at Orhovelani High School in Bushbuckridge and plays football for TWG Academy, who were recently promoted to the Vodacom League. “I came to see my old school play and see how they are doing.”

Mabunda admitted that the trip to London has changed his life.

“The trip opened my eyes to life outside South Africa. It made me take life more seriously and want to achieve more. There is so much to learn and so much to see,” he said.

He was sorry to see Daniye lose out and not get the opportunity to go to the national finals again. “But that’s soccer,” he said. “When playing at this level you cannot get complacent and sit back as that is when the underdog gets the better of you.”

For Sekusile, it’s about making full use of the opportunity they have been given now. And their immediate task is to go on a campaign to make sure that all the players have soccer boots for the national finals.

The teams participating in the provincial finals were: Sekusile, Ndawonye, Robert Carruthers and Daniye.

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