Registrations are still coming in from Gauteng schools who want to participate in the 2017 under-12 Danone Nations Cup competition. Many are entering the biggest tournament for kids between 10 and 12 years old in the world for the first time.
Among them are two very different schools: Saxonwold Primary School, an 80 year-old Johannesburg school, and Acts of House Education, a Christian School in Glen Austin that only opened its doors in 2014.
Johannes Leie, coach of Saxonwold Primary, explained that he heard about the tournament via the newspapers and decided to enter to provide new opportunities for the boys. He believes he has an exceptionally talented team this year, with two players already members of the Bidvest Wits Football Academy and he is hoping that a couple of others will be spotted by the scouts from other professional clubs.
Leie says that most of the players play for soccer academies and local clubs, and often play against older players, so they know about the pressure, and what it will take for them to get to the provincial finals.
“Sport is very important at school,” Leie believes. Some kids are not academically strong but can play sport which builds their confidence and they perform better in class as a result,” he says.
Leie’s team will be boosted by Cade Goodgall, a midfielder, who has been playing at the school since grade 2 and defender, Tylern Callaghar. Both play under-13 soccer at the Wits Football Academy
For Acts of House Education the Danone Nations Cup will be the biggest tournament they have ever entered.
Team manager, Shannon Naidoo, explains that the aim is to get the kids exposed to other schools and competitive football as they have not been given this opportunity before.”
“We heard about the competition through Youtube and the Danone Nations Cup website. I investigated and realised this is an excellent opportunity for the players,” he says.
The team is coached by Moffat Masaso, the school’s physical education teacher. He has a coaching qualification from the British Council.
Naidoo wants the players to have fun. “It’s their time,” he says. “I hope that they can make it as far as possible without the boys feeling too pressurised.
“Development is an essential part of any player and the first thing that they need to learn is how to be confident. They must understand that they won’t become super stars overnight. They need to work hard.”
Michael Molokwe will be key player for the team. He has been playing for the Trinity Football club since 2015 and is only 11 years old. Katlego Mbekwa is another player to watch. He has been playing for Believe Football Academy since 2011.