Northern Cape schools are finalising their under-12 soccer teams in preparation for the first round of Danone Nations Cup fixtures starting this week.
Over 3 000 primary schools from all corners of the country are expected to enter the tournament with the Northern Cape being the first province to host their finals on 25th March.
Back in action again this year are the 2016 Northern Cape provincial champions, Van Rensburg Primary School, runners-up, Beacon Primary School, and 2014 and 2015 provincial champs, Roodepan Primary School.
All three schools have admitted that getting the team ready has not been easy as many of the players have to juggle their athletics with their soccer as the first school term is traditionally athletics season.
Van Rensburg Primary school finished in fifth position at the 2016 national finals, which team manager, Wallace Marolla, says is excellent considering the location of the school and the small pool of players he has to select from.
Marolla has been with the team since 2008 and is looking forward to the day a school from the Northern Cape wins through to the world finals.
All of last year’s players are now either in high school, or too old to play, so he will be introducing his team to the Danone Nations Cup for the first time this year. “It will be challenging to get the new team to the level of last year’s players,” Marolla said. “What helps is that every player knows about the competition and is excited to play. That passion will go a long way to their success.”
There are no changes to the coaching department at Van Rensburg this year - Bevin Madolla will be back at the helm again.
Ian Davids, manager of the Beacon Primary School, said it took them 5 years to make it to the provincials, which they did last year, only to lose to Van Rensburg in the provincial final due to a silly mistake in the dying minutes of the game.
None of their players from last year are eligible either, so trials are on. “What helps is that many of the players play club soccer, so they understand the basics of the game. I just need to teach tactics and techniques.”
Davids will be joined by his son Vicquien who is a qualified personal trainer to help coach the team this year.
“Our biggest challenge this year is transport,” Davids said. “Our area is vast and the kids rely on public transport. Sometimes they might not be able to attend training and others might have to leave early, but I’m hoping 2017 will be Beacon Primary School’s chance to represent the country in the World Finals.”
Roodepan Primary School team manager, Enricho Chapman, will be finalizing his team this week. “The competition gets tougher every year, particularly as one gets to the higher levels. There’s a lot of pressure on the players, but what I can say after the seven years we have been participating is that the Danone Nations Cup competition has had a positive impact on the school and community.”
“We have no changes in the coaching department. Christopher Jafta will be coaching the boys as he has for the past 7 years. He has a Youth Coaching and Life Skill qualification from Football Forever,” Chapman said.
The regional playoffs in the Northern Cape will take place on the following dates:
JTG district – February 25 (Madibeng Sports Grounds).
Namaqua district – March 4 (Poffader Sports Grounds).
ZF Mgcawu district – March 4 (Robert Gunda Stadium, Upington).
Pixley Seme district – March 10 (Carnavon Sports Grounds).
Francis Baard district – March11 (AR Abass Stadium, Kimberley).
The Provincial Finals will be on March 25 in Upington.