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» » Who will nurture Copa Coca Cola talent?

…football clubs urged to embrace junior policy

Clayton Shereni

Football clubs and national teams in Europe are envied throughout the world for their consistency in sport development support through the several early talent- identification practices they have put in place.
Their unwavering support for young players is evident in the creation of football academies and partnerships with tournament organisers and sponsors.
In Zimbabwe, football clubs, academies and junior national teams have a chance to scout for fresh, raw talent at the prestigious Copa Coca Cola schools soccer tournament which is held annually.
For the past 31 years, football-loving high school pupils have found succor in the country’s largest schools tournament; a platform for them to showcase their talent of the world’s most beautiful game.
The tournament has been going on for the past 31 years and nine years for boys and girls football players respectively.
The tournament has so far lived up to expectations; with organisers inviting the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and academies to scout for talent at this year’s edition of the tournament.
Meanwhile, the local football mother body Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) has made calls to local clubs to adopt a junior policy and sign young football stars in their squads.
Football clubs in the country are, however, not doing enough in terms of promoting young talent but are rather going for ripe and ready 19 and 20 year-olds.
Looking at the history of some of the country’s biggest players, it can be seen that Copa Coca-Cola played a part in their growth.
Players like Peter Ndlovu, Hardlife Zvirekwi, Artwell Mukandi and Kaizer Chiefs talisman Khama Billiat owe part of their success to the tournament.
Speaking to TellZim News after this year’s tournament which was held in Kadoma from July 11-13, former Warriors defender John Phiri, who was among the invited guests, applauded the organisers and sponsors for developing future stars.
He said clubs had of late failed to take the opportunity and partner Copa Coca-Cola in efforts to develop future football stars.
“Copa Coca Cola is developing these young stars and the clubs should come, identify and nurture talent being exhibited here so that we create an opportunity for these players to grow. They are aiming to play at the highest level so there should be professional coaches teaching these boys and girls some techniques,” said Phiri.
National Association of School Heads (NASH) head-in-charge of football Tranos Mbwirire said football clubs in the country must intensify their efforts to introduce junior policies at their clubs in order to improve football standards in the country.
“The problem with most of our big teams in the country is they don’t have any junior policy. They always go for tried and tested players but it is high time they come up with new strategies. If we pull together, we would go a long way in developing soccer in Zimbabwe,” said Mbwirire.
This year’s tourney was star-studded, with both boys and girls players giving outstanding performances in their respective categories.
In the boys category, Prince Edward were crowned champions after beating Rusununguko with a goal to nil to win the trophy for the first time after four attempts in which they always lost in the finals.
The center of attraction in the finals was PE’s midfielder Alvin Dube who scored the decisive goal and was later named player of the tournament
Another notable player in the boys’ category was Rusununguko striker Dylan Gumbe who was instrumental in his side’s superb run up to the final match of the tournament although he missed a scoring chance from the penalty spot in the finals.
Prince Edward shot stopper and goalkeeper of the tournament Ronald Uraya proved to be a future star by showcasing a solid performance.
The girls’ category was won by Mpopoma High School; a team which had some of the most talented players with noticeable potential to play for the Mighty Warriors in the near future.
Other notable players from other teams were midfielder Bethel Kondo of Nyamauru High and Nataly Mbavha of Mwenezi High.
These are just but a few picks from the vast talent pool that this year’s Copa Coca-Cola tournament presented.
The ball is now in the coat of local clubs and academies in major cities to take advantage of this talent and develop it.

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