Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
THE country’s most prestigious schools soccer competition, Copa Coca-Cola has had its boys section changed from an Under-16 tournament to Under-15.
National Association of Secondary Heads, head in charge of football Albert Mucheka said the shift was necessitated by the fact that the age group recognised by the Federation of International Football Association is Under-15 and not Under-16. The other reason, Mucheka said the sponsors, Coca-Cola have a desire to develop the players at a younger age.
“The change from Under-16 to Under-15 was to align the age group with Fifa recognised age groups. Fifa recognise the Under-15, Under-17 and Under-20 age groups. Also the sponsor wants to develop the age group, that is to ‘catch them young’. Again it was an age group that we used to have before the Under-16 came in,’’ said Mucheka.
For the girls, who compete at Under-17, there is no change to the age group. It is the second time that the boys section has had its age group altered as the tournament used to be for lads Under-20 when it started in 1989 and became an Under-16 competition in 2009.
Mucheka said their intention is to have the boys being Under-15 throughout the whole of 2017 which means the cutoff date is 1 January 2003.
Another change that has been introduced for this year will see the matches for the national finals take place on Friday and Saturday. Previously, the matches used to take place on Saturday and Sunday. Mucheka explained that the modification is meant to allow teams to return home on Sunday.
“The change was meant to free Sundays to allow teams to travel back in the morning. We were the only sporting discipline that participated during the weekend. Other disciplines start on Thursdays and finish on Friday/Saturday,’’ Mucheka said.
Chipindura High School and Herman Gemeiner, both of Bindura are the teams at home for this year’s national finals in July.
The tournament is being officially launched at Rujeko High School in Glendale on 24 May. Rujeko won the boys’ competition with a 4-1 on penalties victory over Chinhoyi while Chidyamakono were the girls champions for the third year in a row after they beat Magwegwe 1-0. The finals took place at Phelandaba Stadium in Gwanda.
Meanwhile, a media workshop will take place in Kwekwe on Friday for journalists who will cover the tournament. The gathering is expected to bring together journalists from various media houses from all over the country, representatives from Coca-Cola, their bottling partners in Zimbabwe, Delta Beverages, Mutare Bottling Company and Nash delegates.