The Sunday News
Ngqwele Dube, Sports Correspondent
THE Marvelous Nakamba Foundation is set to launch an annual youth football tournament that will see teams from across the country taking part.
Titled the MNF Youth Invitation Tournament, the competition is this year scheduled for next month with organisers having already sent in requests to the Sports and Recreation Commission, through the Zimbabwe Football Association to host the tourney. Eight teams have been invited to take part in the event that will be held in Bulawayo on 19 and 20 June.
Zifa Bulawayo chairman, Francis Ntuta confirmed they are working closely with MNF to ensure the tournament becomes a reality and could be a precursor to the start of junior football that has been on hold since last year following the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country last year.
He said they are upbeat about hosting the competition and are motivated by the start of top-flight football with top-tier teams featuring in a cup competition before full resumption of league matches.
“We are all eager to see the game back, junior players are also itching to be back in the field and we hope this tournament will be the beginning of the return of junior football.
“We know that we are now living in a new normal and are ready to meet whatever conditions that would be set for the tournament to be played. What is critical is that players get back on the pitch,” he said.
MNF is the brainchild of Zimbabwe international and Aston Villa (UK) midfielder, Marvelous Nakamba. Teams that have been invited for this year’s tournament include Highlanders, Dynamos, Njube Spurs, Hwange Dynamo, Albun Academy, Bulawayo City, Ajax Hot Spurs and Chicken Inn.
According to the tournament rules, the teams shall be placed in two groups of four with matches being played in a round-robin format and the two top teams in each group will proceed to the semi-finals. Pool A winners will play Pool B runners up and vice versa in the semis with the winners proceeding to the finals.
The organisers will provide kits to be used during the tourney. Only players aged 17 and below will be eligible to take part in the tournament.
MNF said they wanted to give the tournament a national outlook hence bringing in teams from outside the city. The foundation said the broader picture is to give the youngsters an opportunity to showcase their talent while at the same time bringing in a new perspective to coaches that 17 years is the right age to give players a chance at the highest level of the sport.
“Nakamba broke into the first team at 17 years and we believe that is when young players should be introduced to the top echelons of the game if they are to mature early. There seems to be a thought that only those who have reached 21-22 years are ready for the top-flight, which we believe is a wrong perception,” added MNF.