All 12 KwaZulu-Natal regions have started their road to the Danone Nations Cup provincial soccer finals, with Siyathuthuka Primary School of Mtubatuba being the first to qualify for the next round of the competition.
The UMkhanyakude regional finals took place this past weekend with 16 schools participating. The schools were divided into 4 groups and Siyathuthuka won, drew and lost a game to finish second in their group behind Qomukuphila PS, which put them into the quarterfinals.
They went on to beat Mgedula Primary 1 – 0 to reach the semifinals where they overcame Mthwazi Primary 3 – 1 on penalties and finally Ntuthuko 1 – 0 to win through to the provincial finals.
An excited coach, Ziduse Ncube, explained that this is a major feat considering they only started playing in the tournament last year, when they were knocked out during the district finals.
Ncube came to the school, which is based in Nkombose Reserve, Mtubatuba, two years ago from Hlazane Primary School which has been participating in the competition for a number of years.
He was keen to enter his new school in the Danone Nations Cup because he believes it opens up a lot of opportunities for young players.
“We have a team made up of new players who have never taken part in such a big tournament,” he said. “We don’t have the best training facilities, but that won’t stop them from reaching for their dream to go through the national finals.”
Ncube has no formal coaching qualifications and gets his knowledge from attending local games and reading books on how to develop young players.
“We know that reaching the provincials is a different ball game and will require hard work so we will continue training sessions 4 times a week once we return from the Easter school holidays. I have also organised friendlies against the local club under-14 teams as warm up games,” he said.
Keeping it simple is the plan, said Ncube. “The boys are still busy mastering the basics so I will keep it simple in terms of training; defending, attacking, ball possession and building stamina.”
Changing tactics now will not benefit the team, believes Ncube. “I don’t want to confuse or tire the team before a big event like the provincials. Looking at their performance from the cluster level to the regional finals, there’s a huge difference and I’m impressed with their willingness to learn and their discipline.
Ncube says there are no key players in the team. Good results are achieved through teamwork he and wants his players to remember that. “Every player has had a hand in winning the games we needed to in order to qualify for the provincials.”