Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
THE Copa Coca-Cola boys Under-16 dream team left the country yesterday for a week-long training camp in South Africa. The annual training camp will involve seven countries — Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The players will go through various skill drills designed to improve their game under the guidance of world class coaches at Pretoria High Performance Centre and they will tour a number of places including the FNB Stadium.
The team made up of 14 players selected from various schools during the national finals is accompanied by Paul Mahutu of Dewure, the winning school at the national finals held in Bulawayo. This follows attendance of the Copa Coca-Cola international camp by two other Zimbabwean players Devine Khumalo and Leroy Willie in Germany in July this year.
Zimbabwe are the current holders of the African Copa Coca-Cola Trophy. They won the trophy in South Africa in 2013 when they beat Uganda 3-0 in the finals under the guidance of Never Mhandu from Chemhanza but could not defend the trophy last year due to the cancelled camp following the outbreak of the Ebola virus.
Mahutu, who won the national finals in Bulawayo with Dewure is optimistic they will retain the title.
“We are going to South Africa and we hope to bring back home the Cup. We hope to perform very well better than 2013 because I think we have a more talented group of players this time around.
“For the players they will get more skills, they will benefit in a big way and I hope when they come back they will display better skills in their tournaments. And for me as a coach I hope to acquire a little bit more of these skills because I am one those coaches whom you call raw coaches who also needs to gather one or two tactics from others. This is exactly what I hope to do,” Mahutu said.
Ronald Wadula from Rujeko School said he is excited to have been selected into the dream team and is looking forward to the camp. “I am really excited to be part of the team that is going to represent the country in South Africa. I am hoping to impress the coaches. “I am looking forward to improving my skills as a player and learn as much as I can. I am also hoping that we win the trophy,” said Wadula.
Coca-Cola senior franchise brand manager and head of delegation, Takunda Jinda said the tournament is a platform for the young players to be recognised in terms of their talent.
“Copa Coca-Cola promotes active, healthy living through teens’ interest in soccer while offering youth an opportunity to meet and interact with peers across the country and other nations. The initiative also provides opportunities to recognise rising soccer talent among community youth,” said Jinda. The competition has produced notable stars that have excelled in the Premier league, foreign leagues and the national teams. These among others include Peter Ndlovu, Cephas Chimedza, Ovidy Karuru, Alois Bunjira, Johannes Ngodzo, Norman Maroto, Washington Arubi, Knowledge Musona and Harlington Shereni.
Goalkeepers: Rodwell Manhungo (Prince Edward), Jinjihad Murayanemwe (Chemhanza).
Defenders: Douglas Mapfumo (Chemhanza), Ellson Mhweha (Guinea Fowl), Xesha Ndlovu (Tsholotsho) Joe Moyo (Guinea Fowl).
Midfielders: Ronald Wadula (Rujeko), Hagiazo Magaya (Prince Edward), Prince Milanzi (Dewure), Kelvin Dube (Chemhanza), Mongameli Tshuma (Mpompoma), Cardwell Chifamba (Dewure).
Strikers: Ishmael Nyanhi (Rujeko), Tafadzwa Dhliwayo (Gifford).
Chaperones: Albert Mucheka (Nash), Takunda Jinda (Coca-Cola and head of delegation), Katazile Sibanda (Delta- Beverages).