28 October For 19 year-old Lungile Leribe, playing in the national finals of the Sanlam Kay Motsepe Schools Cup competition was both the opportunity of a lifetime, and a harsh reality check. Lungile is at Freedom Park High Secondary School in Rustenburg and they finished in 10th position at the schools soccer showpiece after going into the event thinking they were in with a chance of winning it.
As runners-up in the Northwest provincial championship of the competition, Freedom Park joined 17 other schools at the national finals in Durban last month, all playing for a slice of the R3.4 million prize money on offer.
“Getting to the national finals was a great achievement and we thought we could win the grand prize, but were not prepared for the high level of football that we met,” Leribe said. “I was disappointed that I did not win money for the school, as I will not have another chance as I finish grade 12 this year.”
“It was tough for all us, especially the first day. We were tired from travelling and we were not in form so didn’t manage to score a goal on the first day. Looking at our performance we didn’t play badly, our defence was solid, but we lacked the ability to create and score goals,” said Leribe.
Leribe believes their poor start to the tournament meant that they were always up against it. “We wanted to start the tournament with a bang by scoring a minimum of 3 to 4 goals in one game – this didn’t happen and that was a huge disappoint for all of us.”
The two schools that impressed him most were Benny’s Sports Development Academy and Harmony High School. “They both have strong strikers who can shoot on target and they create opportunities for them.”
The level of football at the finals was way above what they have been exposed to, he says. “We need more soccer tournaments to come into North West so we can learn to cope at this level.”
The highlight of the tournament for Freedom Park was that they managed to finish above fellow North West representatives Sebetwane High School in the final standings. Freedom Park came 10th and Sebetwane 15th. Sebetwane finished as North West champions winning R100 000 to fund projects that will benefit the school and the community at large.
Pule Diale, Freedom Park’s coach, said he was proud of the team. “Even though we finished 10th, I am still proud of my team’s performance and we are looking forward to coming back next year. I still believe that my boys played exceptionally well, it’s just that we missed out on opportunities to score goals.”
Diale teaches mathematics at the school and he said he is a school teacher first, sport is an extra-curricular activity for him. “Over the years I sometimes neglect coaching because I have so much school work that I need to take care of and the players end up suffering because of that,” he said.
He admits he was taken by surprise at the high standard of football at the national finals. “The various provinces all brought something different to the tournament. Clapham played the best but that’s understandable because they have the best coaches and the best facilities. But mostly we learnt the value of ball-control and possession at the tournament, our problem was not being able to score goals,””
Playing facilities are another challenge for the school – they play on an open field with home-made goalposts, “he said. “The academies had an advantage coming into the finals because of the experience and facilities they had. The rest of the participants are normal public schools who struggle with all sporting equipment.”