'Defending Copa Coca-Cola title is hard'

HARARE - Defending champions Chemhanza High School coach Never Mhandu has likened the Under-16 Copa Coca-Cola football tournament to the World Cup which is almost impossible to win twice in a roll.

The boys Under-16 Copa Coca-Cola football tournament will step up a gear tomorrow with provincial finals being staged in various centres across the country.

The provincial winners will proceed to the national finals set for Harare from July 18 to 20.

Chemanza High School, who won the trophy last year after beating Mashonaland Central representatives Howard High School 3-1 in the finals, automatically qualify for the national finals.

They will still, however, have a chance to gear up for the national finals by strutting it out in the Mashonaland East provincial finals at Marondera High on Friday.

“We don’t want to give the players a lot of pressure because winning the Copa Coca-Cola last year was something great,” Mhandu said yesterday.

“This year we will just do our best. This tournament is like the World Cup. It’s not easy to win it twice.

“But we are not saying we are afraid of anyone. As defending champions we are working very hard to play as well or even better than we did last year, but it won’t be easy.”

Chemhanza’s attacking midfielder Tatenda Tumba, whose stellar show at the Under-16 Copa final won him a place in the Zimbabwe Under-16 Copa team, will be one of the players to look out for this year.

Tumba was voted the best player of the Copa Coca-Cola tournament in South Africa and also won the Golden Boot award with a total of six goals.

But Mhandu believes it will be players who are playing the age-grade tournament for the first time who will be his most dangerous arsenal.

“We are banking on players who are coming for the first time because they are eager to perform,” he said.

“The players who were in the team last year are like Spain, they have achieved but in the end we can’t rule them out because they have the experience.”

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