THIRTY-SIX South African Under-12 boys and girls left the country for Barcelona, Spain to represent Mzansi in the Danone Nations Cup World Cup Football Finals, set for Thursday and Saturday.
Among the teams are 2019 winners, Muzuvukile from KwaZulu Natal and the girl’s team from Ivory Park, Rebonwe and last year’s champs Nomlinganiselo, who hail from the Western Cape.
Nomlinganiselo are pitted in their group against Indonesia, Bulgaria, Portugal and Brazil while Muzuvukile have Mexico, England, Uruguay and Morocco.
The Mzansi girls from Rebonwe will play against France (Olympique Lyonnaise FC), Italy (SSC Napoli FC) and Japan (Chiba Chuo FC).
Mzuvukile are having high hopes to lift the trophy this year.
Their school principal Bongi Xulu said she was over the moon and they hoped to fly Mzansi’s flag high.
“The competition has different level teams had to pass through to qualify to represent the country. It wasn’t an easy journey, but we prospered,” she said.
The team’s coach Jimmy Makoba said hard work and extra hours of training helped.
“We entered the same tournament last year, but were defeated at national level. We learnt from the mistakes we made and worked hard to improve them. I have a very dedicated team, which I enjoy coaching because they do exactly what you tell them to do on the field,” he said.
The team’s captain Sandile Mnguni (12) said they were very excited for the opportunity to play on the world stage.
“We thank our coach for trusting we can do it again this year. We thank him for believing we can do it, even if we didn’t believe it ourselves.
“We are hoping for more wins,” he said.
Chris Njokwana, coach of Nomlinganiselo, said it is a mix of excitement, anticipation and nerves: “I have seen great improvement in all the boys during their coaching. My first task was to get the boys fit, so I had them running which they didn’t enjoy.
“Then we focused on positioning them to their strengths and then came the tactics.”
Njokwana has his Safa D license and is busy with his C license.
He currently coaches Transition Football Academy (Under-11 to under-18) and Fives Football School.
He has coached the Hellenic High-Performance Centre and was a ball mastery and attacking coach at Ajax Cape Town.
Also travelling with the team will be Amanda Dlamini, the ex Banyana Banyana captain.