The Gauteng provincial finals of the under-12 Danone Nations Cup competition will take place at the WJ Clements Stadium in Reiger Park, Boksburg, on Saturday 11th June. Kick-off 10am.
That’s the venue where the competition’s national tournament will take place, two weeks later, and the Gauteng winners will be joining the other 8 provincial champions there, vying for the South African title, and the chance to represent the country at the Danone Nations Cup world finals in France later in the year.
Johannesburg’s Bree Primary School did just that last year and went to Morocco as the country’s representatives. They are back at the provincials again this year, after beating Makola Primary on penalties in their regional final last week.
School principal and team manager, Dave Kalicharan, is relieved his school is back in the running again, but says it was not an easy ride considering his team is not as strong as previous years and every school they have played against to date has gone all out to beat them.
He admits that lots of work needs to be done this week. “We need to work on our defence,” he said, “our ball control is weak and there seems to be a confidence issue.” At this stage he is not even contemplating who their opposition will be at the provincials. “Every year the teams are different and you never know what to expect so at the moment all we know is that the provincials won’t be easy.”
His trump card is that two of the players from last year’s champion team are back in action this year including: Vusi Mputhi, who is the team captain this year and the goalkeeper Mncedisi Nguse, who is now part of the Orlando Pirates Academy and also went for trials at Sundowns. “They are great motivators to the rest of the team because they have experience in the DNC and understand the pressure of playing against other international teams,” Kalicharan said.
Two of the 2015 players were chosen to join the Orlando Pirates Aacdemy: Mncedisi Nguse and Tshegofatso Ngke.
Kalicharan believes the journey to Morocco significantly benefitted the players. “They are not as shy, more focused, more positive and more motivated,” he said. “They pay attention better and have more confidence.” There will be two teams joining the eight district winners at this year’s provincial finals, and one of them is the Deutsche Internationale Schule Johannesburg, winners of the 2015 under-11 knockout cup organised by the Johannesburg Primary Schools Football Association.
Their coach, Morgan van Rooyen, is excited that his team is participating in this prestigious competition. “What is enticing is the fact that it has an international component attached,” he said. “Bree Primary experienced that in Morocco last year and that will give them valuable experience and make them very tough opponents at the provincial finals.”
The school has a rich history and will be turning 126 years old this year. It was originally established to serve the children of Germans living in SA, but in 1989 they opened the school to all South Africans and started offereing bursaries to kids from poorer backgrounds. Van Rooyen is a former Kaizer Chiefs and Wits development team player. Injury cut his playing career short, so he decided to go into coaching. He has a SAFA C License (Level 1 Coaching certificate), and has coached at the school for the past 3 years.
The players in the team are all South African, but many of their parents come from different parts of the world. Two of them, Bjorn Frohlinch and Jurgen Pommersheim, have German parents and have been invited to trials at a German club. In 2015 a Spanish Academy, Premier Soccer Institution (PSI), came to SA to run workshops and soccer clinics and all Gauteng schools were invited to attend. From his school 6 players were invited to go a step further and attend additional workshops and clinics in Spain in July.
Rosebank Primary, who finished within the top 8 in the Under 11 2015 under-11 knockout cup, will also be competing as the second Invitational school. Sunnyside Primary School from Tshwane will also be competing on Saturday. Phila Pereira, their coach, knows that the provincial finals will be a different ball game to the regionals. “Bree will be our biggest competition,” he said. “Their team is very strong and the coach has good coaching skills having taken the school twice to the world finals”.
An added advantage, Periera believes, is that all his boys play for the Blue Stars Football Club, who compete in the Soccer Association of Pretoria league, which they have been competing in for the past 2 years. “Playing consistently, and competitively will help as they are used to the pressure that goes with playing at this level.”
The competing teams include:
Ekurhuleni: Sonqoba Primary School
Ekhurleni: Phomolong Primary School
Tshwane: Sunnyside Primary School
Tshwane: St Joseph Khulani
Johannesburg: Mayibuye Primary School (Ivory Park)
Johannesburg: Bree Primary School
West Rand: Mayibuye Primary School (Dobsonville)
Sedibeng: Seeiso Primary School
Invitational: Deutsche Internationale Schule
Invitational: Rosebank Primary School