Tshebiso-Xolani Primary School from Tweeling, near Frankfort in the Free State, qualified to play in this year’s under-12 Danone Nations Cup soccer national final when they were crowned provincial champions at Grey College in Bloemfontein last weekend. The youngsters will travel to Gauteng in September. The ultimate winner gets to compete in the world finals in Spain in 2019.
They won the title despite having a shaky start on the day, said an excited coach, Meschack Mokoena. “As the slogan for the tournament says, just believe in your dreams!" It was an early start on Saturday for the young hopefuls with the bus leaving at 5am to get to Bloemfontein at 9am, explained Mokoena. “Some of the boys come from far so they were awake and on the road much earlier.”
That affected them in their first match, against 2016 national finalists, Witsiehoek Primary School and they lost 4 – 0. “It was disappointing, but I told the boys that losing the first game did not mean we had lost the tournament, so we shouldn’t give up. After all, football is all about winning and losing. The trick is bouncing back and believing in yourself to do better next time,” Mokoena said.
Their next game was against another experienced team, Insoseng Primary School who played in the provincial finals in 2015, 2016 and 2018. They beat them 1-0, which was an excellent morale-booster for the boys. “We regained our confidence and composure. It was the turning point for us,” Mokoena said.
They beat Letsibolo Primary School 1-0 in their third game, which brought them up against a really tough team in Katiso Primary School. The game ended 0-0, and they won 3-2 on penalties.
That saw them into the final and a rematch with Insoseng Primary. “Both teams were excited to play in the deciding game,” Moekoena said. “Insoseng were in the final for the first time, and they came hard at us. We managed to hold them to a 1-1 draw and won 4-3 on penalties, making us the 2018 Free State Provincial champions.
“Taking my team to the national finals is a dream come true,” Mokoena said. “However, we have a lot of work to do before the national finals. I’m going to have to re-shuffle the team based on what I saw at the provincials. One of the changes is going to be in goals. Our current keeper is too short and the other teams capitalised on that.
“The national finals are another ball game. We will be playing the best teams in the country and the bigger provinces have excellent coaches. I will be following the other provincial finals closely to see who we will be playing there." Mamelodi Sundowns development coach, Mandla Mazibuko was there on the day and he said he was very impressed with Tshebiso-Xolani captain, Mokwining Tsotetsi. He scored 9 goals in their regional matches and plays for All Stars Football Club and has been invited to Sundowns for an assessment.
Ricardo Katza, ex- SuperSport United and Bafana Bafana defender, and the director of football at Grey College, was also there to have a look at the talent and the standard of football in the Free State primary schools. Football is becoming a priority at Grey College, they are currently upgrading their facilities and the school will be a force to be reckoned within the next couple of years.“It was great to have a high-profile footballer at the finals to talk to the kids and give them some motivation,” said Mokoena.
Witsieshoek Primary School 0 vs Katiso Primary School 0. Witsieshoek won on penalties.
Letisbolo Primary School 0 vs Insoseng Primary School 1
Tshebiso- Xolani Primary School 0 vs Witsieshoek Primary School 4
Katiso Primary School 0 vs Letisbolo Primary School 0. Letsibolo won on penalties.
Insoseng Primary School 0 vs Tshebiso-Xolani Primary School 1
Witsieshoek Primary School 0 vs Letisbolo Primary School 0. Letsibolo won on penalties.
Katiso Primary School 1 vs Insoseng Primary School 4
Letisbolo Primary School 0 vs Tshebiso-Xolani Primary School 1
Insoseng Primary School 1 vs Witsieshoek Primary School 0
Tshebiso- Xolani Primary 0 (3) vs Katiso Primary School 0 (2)
Final: Insoseng Primary School 1 vs Tshebiso-Xolani Primary School 1. Tshebiso-Xolani won on penalties.