It's Copa Coca-Cola time again

BULAWAYO – All the attention of local football enthusiasts will be in Matabeleland South this weekend when the 28th edition of the Copa Coca-Cola national finals roars to life at Gwanda High and Colleen Bawn schools.

The two institutions host the group stages of the age-grade schools tournament for both boys and girls in the Under-16 and Under-17 categories respectively.

Both finals for the girls and boys will be staged at Pelandaba Stadium tomorrow.

The national finals are a culmination of the 2016 grassroots tournament launched in May at defending champions Dewure High School with action having started at zonal level.

All the participating teams arrived yesterday from their respective bases and went through the vetting process to set the stage alight for the country's esteemed schools football tournament.

Defending champions Dewure High will be hoping to retain the crown they won last year after beating Rujeko High at Barbourfields Stadium following a penalty shoot.

The Masvingo province school will however, have to negotiate the challenge posed by Devuli and Sobhukazi, who they were drawn with in Group A.

Mzingwane, who have to contend with Chinhoyi High and Tohwe in Group B, are also fancying their chances after some encouraging performances in the provincial finals earlier this month.

Former champions Pamushana High of Masvingo, who are also seen as favourites judging by their form in provincials, have a tricky challenge in Group C against Guinea Fowl and Rujeko.

Rujeko from Mashonaland Central are last year's runners-up after losing to Dewure in the final.

Having watched from the sidelines in the previous tournaments, Harare’s Churchill Boys High are confident of a fifth crown.

They will however, have to clear the hurdle posed by hosts Gwanda and Chemhanza, who are also seen as favourites.

Churchill, who have a rich history in the Copa Coca-Cola tournament having been previously crowned champions four times in 1992, 1994, 2000 and 2008 will carrying the hopes of Harare province.

Head in charge of football at the Eastlea-based school Jaison Mhundwa said they will be gunning for the title.

“We are obviously expecting tough competition considering all the power houses are there but that does not stop us from aiming for the title,” Mhundwa said.

“I think all the teams there have equal chances of winning. We have been absent for some time but we have done our homework and we are ready to reclaim our title. We hope to do well this time around.”

Mhundwa said they would want to win the cup in honour of their late coach Gift Zvavanhu who passed on in January.

“We owe a lot to Zvavanhu, he is the one who was behind this current crop of our players and we want to win for him.”

In the girls' category, Chidyamakono will be hoping to continue with their dominance at the tournament with three titles already.

While Chidyamakono are overwhelming favourites they will face challenge from Colleen Bawn while Magwegwe are also seen as a dark horse.

The schools grassroots football tournament aims to identify, nurture and reward the best in young football talent.

Copa Coca-Cola, as the premier grassroots tournament also seeks to unlock the ambitious dreams and possibilities of Africa’s football stars.

The tournament aims to inspire young footballers to achieve their dreams through a renowned and respected Pan African soccer tournament.

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