Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
THIS year’s launch of the 30th edition of the Copa Coca-Cola Under-15 boys and girls football tournament will take place today at Rusunungunko High School in Goromonzi.
Rusununguko, from Mashonaland East, are the boys defending champions.
The launch will be followed by the zonal games set to start on May 24 while the districts competition is scheduled for June 8.
The provincial finals are expected to take place on June 22, culminating into the national finals from July 12 to 14 in Zvishavane.
This year marks a milestone in the history of the tournament as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.
The tournament, now the biggest football event on the schools’ calendar, has grown from strength to strength since its inception in 1989 and in 2011 introduced the girls’ competition.
Chidyamakono from Masvingo are the reigning champions in the girls section and have been the title holders since 2013.
National head in charge of Nash football, Albert Mucheka, said they were pleased with the growth of the tournament and were looking forward to another exciting event this year.
“The relationship has been quite good, starting when they were sponsoring the Under-20s, which produced players like Peter Ndlovu.
“They changed to Under-16, which again was good because its development. So now they are sponsoring Under-15s.
“And they have also incorporated girls, that’s in line with the call for gender equity. So now we have the Under-15 boys and girls. The girls have been taken on board. Sponsorship has also grown, from 2003 to 2006 they were sponsoring the regional tournament involving Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. But they have made it bigger . . . we now have countries from outside SADC — Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya among others.
“So that’s a good thing,” said Mucheka.
Some of the young players have had the opportunity to participate in regional and international camps where they go through drills under the guidance of experts.
“It has given our students quite an enriching experience. They now have a different view of football, they realise it’s not just a sport at school but some are making a living out of it.
“They are exposed to international coaches and it’s a good experience for them to actually realise that they can pursue their dreams. Last year they went to Durban where they took part in Five-A-Side, both boys and girls, which was good.
“For the first time we took girls and had a fantastic experience. So to Coca-Cola we say they have done a great job. It’s something worth to play for. We are very grateful,” said Mucheka.
The national head in charge of Nash football said the continued support from Coca-Cola is a vote of confidence on the way they have been running the tournament.
“We have tried to run the tournament in a professional manner. Of course, challenges come here and there but we have tried to run it in a professional way,” Mucheka said.
Some of the players that came through this competition and are expected to grace today’s launch include Justice Majabvi, Dickson Choto and Greater Bande.