Gauteng schools have another month to register for the Danone Nations Cup and Alex school has put in their registrations and are hoping that this will be their year.
There’s a month to go before registrations for the under-12 Danone Nations Cup soccer competition close and the entries are flowing in from across the provinces.
The school soccer season has begun and those who have registered are already hard at training in preparation for the chance to represent South Africa as the world finals in Barcelona later this year.
Iphuteng Primary School of Alexandra township, Gauteng, is one school whose entry is safely in. The school has been competing in the tournament for the past 10 years, reaching the provincial finals only once, in 2009, when they didn’t make it to the knockout phases.
“We were knocked out that year by Bree Primary School,” said the team manager, Letladi Lola. “They were strengthened with players attached to the Orlando Pirates development programme and they went on to win the national title and represented South Africa at the world finals, in South Africa in 2010.”
Bree went on to win the world title that year, becoming the third South African team to do so.
Lola teaches Sepedi as a home language, Natural Science and, his favourite subject, Physical Education at the school. He believes they are at a slight disadvantage as most of their learners come from poor, single-parent and unemployed households. “In many instances the youngsters are brought up by older siblings after having lost both their parents, so funds are scarce at the school and keeping our soccer field in mint condition is not possible, he said.
Lola believes sport at schools is very important. “We view it as a means of teaching the youth many important life lessons,” he said. “Trust, friendship, fair play, believing in your dreams and developing healthy eating habits are some of the things endorsed through soccer.
“Our biggest problem is lack of parent support and the fact that many players have to leave training early to fetch their siblings and take them home,” he said.
Lola is a passionate soccer supporter. He recently attained a SAFA Level D coaching licence. “The SAFA course was an eye opener and I believe that every youth coach should have this qualification to be able to coach effectively. Kids need to be taught good habits as it is very difficult to change a style once it is learnt,” he said.
All 12 schools based in the Johannesburg East District will be participating in the Danone Nations Cup, said Lola. “We compete against these schools on a regular basis and I change my players each game to test their skills and combinations to ensure I have the strongest team for the prestigious Danone Nations Cup.”
Many of the school’s top players have transferred to other schools recently which has made the selection process difficult, but Lola believes they have enough players to make a difference and that this could well be the year they will reach the provincial finals again.
The school has a new coach this year in Thebe Mabala who is an experienced youth coach. “He knows how to bring out the best in the players and it is working out very well,” said Lola. “He also understands the pressure that goes with playing at the top level and he helps to relax the players and encourage them to go out there and have fun.”
The 2018 and 2019 tournaments will take place as a double-header this year in Barcelona to coincide with Danone’s 100th birthday and the tournament’s 20th anniversary. “How the tournament has evolved and grown is very exciting for us,” said Chantel Ehlers, Internal Communications Manager, Danone Southern Africa. “Hosting two events together allows us to highlight all that Danone has achieved from a brand and tournament perspective and fits into our One Planet. One Health brand platform.
The tournament is run under the auspices of the South African Schools Football Association (SASFA) who collate registration forms, finalise dates and fixtures and manage the games at cluster, regional, provincial and national level.
Games will kick-off at cluster level in March culminating in the national final to be held, at a venue to be decided, in June or July. The World Finals are expected to take place in early October (dates to be confirmed).
Schools can register for the competition by contacting the national coordinator at the SA Schools Football Association (SASFA), Themba Tshabalala, firstname.lastname@example.org or on 011 403 2844, 084 290 0602 or 072 588 4957. Alternatively, they can visit the Danone Nations Cup South Africa Facebook page or go to www.facebook.com/dncsouth
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