The under 12 Danone Nations Cup Northern Cape Provincial Finals will take place at the Mxolisi Dicky Jacobs Stadium in Upington on 14th April and it’s going to be a unique experience and a big step up for most of the young footballers.
In the nature of age group sport, players in the Danone Nations Cup move on each season and coaches try to build their teams around the experience of the few players who are still young enough to play in more than one tournament.
It is therefore not unusual to find different schools appearing in the provincial and national finals each year as it depends entirely on skills and the team combinations.
As a result, the provincial finals often feature schools who are making their first appearances at that level and that’s certainly the case with two of this year’s Northern Cape provincial finalists: Gaegake Primary School of the JTG region, and Lutzburg Intermediate School of the ZFM region.
Gaegake, from Maruping Village, Mothibistad, will be competing in provincial finals for the first time, a great achievement for the school that only started participating in the Danone Nations Cup last year.
Their manager/coach is Gilbert Mabihi, the school’s deputy principal. He has a CAF D coaching license and is therefore well qualified for the job.
The school began its preparations in October last year as they didn’t want to repeat their 2017 experience when they started way too late. Friendly matches were played to ensure they were ready for the cluster level stage of the competition as well as the regional final, where they won all four games played.
Mabihi is a firm believer in sport as part of the educational process. “The lessons they learn from soccer, particularly the importance of goal setting, focus, hard work and resilience are also important for their academics,” he said.
Lutzburg Intermediate School based is based in Kakamas and their coach, Chelsen van Wyk, explained that they have been competing in the Danone Nations Cup for three years, but this is the first time that they have progresses beyond the cluster level.
Unlike Gaegake, neither Van Wyk, nor his manager, Jacob Basson, have any formal coaching qualifications, but they have been coaching the school’s under-12’s for the past 3 years and they are delighted to have advanced to the next stage of the tournament. “This is part of a process which we believe will help us win the Northern Cape title,” said Van Wyk.
There were 7 schools in the ZFM regional playoffs with Lutzburg beating Vaalkoppies Primary in the final. Vaalkoppies had won all their games leading up to the final by big margins, so beating them was a morale-booster ahead of the provincial finals.
Another great achievement for the youngsters was beating the historically strongest team in their region, Laerskool Kakamas in the cluster stage of the competition. “This is the first time we have ever beaten them,” said Van Wyk. “It was not an easy road to the provincials but we have done our homework and feel confident that we have the trophy in the bag.”
Four of the five regional champions in the province, who will contest the finals, have been identified. They are:
JTG region - Gaegake Primary School
ZFM region - Lutzburg Intermediate School
Namakwa region - Aggenys Primary
Francis Baard region - Vaalriver Combined School
The winners of the Pixley is still have to be determined