Laerskool Kuswag in East London will be the venue this weekend for the under-12 Danone Nations Cup Eastern Cape provincial finals, kicking off at 10am. The winners will be going to Gauteng to compete in the national finals happening in Boksburg on 1st July.
Among the schools competing again will be last year’s Guqaza Junior Secondary School, who will be representing OR Tambo. In 2016 they were beaten by Barkerville so did not make it to the nationals, something which they are hoping change this year, especially as Barkerville will not be there.
Guqaza is based in rural Kwa Guqaza and has been competing in the competition since 2008. Their coach, Ndumiso Nqiwa, has been teaching at the school for 15 years and coaching soccer for 10. He said he is happy to get through to the provincial finals again and will be upping the training sessions as he knows from last year that the standard of soccer at provincial level is a lot higher and to succeed to the nationals they will have to up their game.
“We have five of last year’s players back and that is going to help,” he said. “Last year’s provincial final was a learning curve for us, even though we never made it to the national finals. The players enjoyed making friends and playing in such a big tournament, especially as they come from an area that doesn’t offer many opportunities.”
Nqiwa believes the players need to learn the basics of soccer. “You can’t train players this young as if you were training young adults,” he said. “They need to learn the fundamental elements such as passing the ball with your inner heel which will direct the ball to the person you are kicking it to.”
He said the main focus for this year is to win the Eastern Cape Provincial Finals. “It’s anyone’s game, but we will play our hearts out and make the OR Tambo district proud.”
Another school participating in the provincial finals is Isaac Booi Primary School based in Zwide in Port Elizabeth, they will represent the Nelson Mandela Bay region.
The team is coached by Siphiwo Witbooi who is the Social Science and Economics Management Sciences teacher at the school.
Isaac Booi has been entering the tournament since 2008 and this is the first time they have made it to the provincial finals stage.
Witbooi was chosen by the Nelson Mandela school district to do the SAFA Level 1•coaching certificate in 2003, so he is well qualified and experienced.
“I selected the team from the boys that already play club soccer,” he said. “This helps, as the players understand the pressure of tournaments at this level.”
Soccer is not the dominant sport in the community where the school is located. The focus is on cricket and rugby there, so it has been quite an achievement to get this far in the competition.
Witbooi sees no reason why the school should not make it to the Danone Nations Cup world finals in the USA in September/October. “After all, fellow Eastern Cape school, Barkerville, won the national finals and they also come from a rural area with poor facilities.”
The organisers are hoping that the severe weekend weather predicted for the Western Cape stays away from East London and that there’s going to be some exciting soccer action on Saturday.
The provincial finalists are:
Nelson Mandela: Isaac Booi Primary School
Alfred Nzo: Dedelo Junior Secondary School
Amathole: Ngubethole Bam Junior Secondary School.
Chris Hani: Debera Junior Secondary School
Joe Gqabi: Sterkspuit Community
OR Tambo: Guqaza Junior Secondary School
Sarah Baartman: Bhongweni Primary School