THE nine Danone Nations Cup provincial winners have just a few more games to play to find out who will represent South Africa in the World Finals happening in Warsaw, Poland from 7 – 9 September. The National Finals take place at Eldorado Park on Saturday, 23 June starting at 9.30am. Entrance is free and there is a kid’s play area where Danone and Canon have put up a host of fun activities to entertain the crowds.
Whatever team wins on Saturday, competing in the Danone Nations Cup World Final will be a new experience. Limpopo’s Kgwahlele Primary School has come close after managing to reach the 2011 National Finals. “The whole community is behind us and we will play our best to make them proud,” said Lesaba Kekana, team manager. “To get to compete for a second time shows me that, even though our coach has no formal football coaching certificate behind him, it means we are doing things right. We would like to be the first team from Limpopo to compete in the World Finals, but we are just focusing on the task at hand and will take each game as it comes.”
Atamela Primary School, from the North West, also played in the 2011 National Finals. “Some of my players were in Jo’burg last year, which I believe gives us an advantage,” said coach, Mr Lebewo. “My first task is to build the youngsters confidence and calm their nerves. It is difficult for us to prepare properly as we have no grounds, nor soccer boots, which we borrow from other teams, but we are not letting that get us down. One of my key players is Teboho Chake who defends like an adult. He knows how to work with the team and is alert when danger approaches.”
All the other teams are National Final first timers: Keidebees Primary School from the Northern Cape, Bochabela Primary representing the Free State, Chakaza Primary from Mpumalanga, AH Barnard Primary from the Western Cape, Nkuzimbini Junior Secondary from the Eastern Cape, Isinamuva Primary from KZN and Sonqoba Primary from Gauteng.
For Gauteng’s Abel Lebuthu from Sonqoba Primary, his build up to the National Finals includes encouraging parents to come and watch their kids compete. “It is a major achievement to reach the Danone Nations Cup National Finals, and we have home ground advantage so I want parents to come and encourage their children. We have some high achievers in our school, whether on the sports field or in the classroom, but parents do not get involved with their children. Parental guidance is essential at this age to teach the youth how to develop into confident, well balanced successful adults.”
For the rest of the teams just the trip to Jo’burg is an experience. “This is a big deal for us and a dream that has come true,” said Issac Freeman, coach of Keidebees Primary in the Northern Cape. “Most of my players have never even ventured out of town. Now we get to go to Jo’burg, stay in a hotel, see SAFA house and see how other teams from different provinces play football. This experience will most certainly build every player into a better and more worldly person which will benefit him throughout his school life. It is opportunities like this that give youngsters in the poorer areas the drive to go out there and make life happen for themselves.”