Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
THE countdown to this year’s edition of the Copa Coca-Cola Under-15 boys and girls football tournament continues, with the host province Midlands declaring they are targeting to bounce back and produce winners.

The province provided the 2011 winners, Manunure.

They host this year’s national event, which marks 30 years since the country’s biggest schools football tournament roared into life at Gifford High School in Bulawayo in 1989.

Speaking ahead of their provincial finals this Friday in Zvishavane, head-in-charge of football for Midlands Eunias Zhou said they were confident they will come out with the best teams that will go all the way at the national finals.

“That the competition will be held in our province means a lot to us.

“We have very competitive teams that have qualified for provincial finals like Guinea Fowl. I think on Friday we must get the best two teams that must be able to represent us.

“Our focus is that the trophy must remain in the Midlands. We normally have some of the best schools, from Kwekwe we have Mbizo High.

“They normally give us good teams, remember Manunure, they have won the trophy before.

“So I think everything is in shape.

“We have encouraged winning teams to look for expertise. We have teams in the Premier League and in Division One, so we have encouraged them to seek assistance on the technical side,” said Zhou.

The winning schools from the country’s 10 provinces, as well as Rusununguko and Chidyamakono, who are the reigning champions in the boys and girls categories respectively, will meet in Zvishavane from July 12 to 14, to fight for honours.

They will be joined by the hosting schools, Zvishavane and Mandava.

Zhou said the football tournament has had a positive impact on many lives and they are excited about it’s returning to their part of the world, having hosted it before.

“On behalf of Midlands Province, we are very grateful and appreciative of the effort made by Copa Coca-Cola in sponsoring and nurturing talent.

“We have players making a living because of this tournament, they were identified during this tournament. So we are really grateful and thankful for the effort,” said Zhou.

As part of their celebrations to mark 30 years of running this competition, the sponsors Coca-Cola are honouring some of the schools that have been outstanding and will parade the trophy at those schools. The schools are Mzilikazi, Hippo Valley and Churchill, who have all lifted the trophy four times and today they will be at Hippo Valley.

Hippo Valley had back-to-back wins in 1990 and 1991.

They wrote another success story, claiming the trophy in 1996 and 1997.

Their first port of call was Mzilikazi, where they paraded the trophy and donated textbooks to the school.

On July 3, they will take the trophy tour to Churchill in Harare.

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