Ray Bande Senior Sports Reporter—
SAKUBVA born Warriors’ legend Lazarus Muhoni might not have played in the Copa Coca Cola tournament back then when he was still in high school but his son, Royce, will be leading his teammates in Zvishavane today (Friday) where Mutare Boys High will be out to revive the good old memories of 1998 when their star studded outfit went all the way to win the gold medal.
The prestigious inter schools football competition — Copa Coca Cola — turns 30 this year and the national finals get underway today in Mandava in the mining town of Zvishavane.
To date, Mutare Boys High are the only team from Manicaland to have won this highly rated schools’ football tournament in the three decades it has been staged.
With a formidable outfit that had the likes of talismanic Taurai ‘Dhana’ Makukutu, the late goal poacher Aaron Ngorima, steely Tafadzwa Munyati, lanky Prosper Matizanadzo, and slippery Malcom Mheuka among other stars Mutare Boys High Class of ’98 was just insuperable.
Even though so much has changed and Manicaland’s beacon of sporting excellence —Mutare Boys High — seems to be a pale shadow of the feared outfit they once were back then, young Muhoni remains defiant that they can go all the way to win the national championship.
“I think we have a good side and the players in our team all want to win. We want to win it and also be remembered as a team that made Manicaland proud.
“It is not going to be easy and we know that. However, we will work hard just like we have always been working hard during training to ensure that we win the coveted accolade,” said the 14 year old Muhoni.
Mutare Boys High and Nyamauru High Schools will represent Manicaland at the national finals of the 2018 Copa Coca Cola Under-15 boys’ and girls’ soccer tournament after they emerged winners at the provincial finals held in Buhera recently.
Mutare Boys High have a rich history in the Copa Coca Cola tournament compared to other schools in Manicaland after they went to several national finals before clinching the title in 1998.
In 1997 Mutare Boys High took part in the finals at national level and in 1999 they went to the national finals as defending champions but lost in the semis.
In 2002 Boys High went to the national finals and lost in the quarter finals before losing in the quarter finals the following year.
In 2004, in Gweru for the national finals, the tournament was marred by controversy after Mutare Boys High were awarded a penalty in the final, scored it, but the match officials adjudged it to have been a corner kick.
Mutare Boys High protested and staged a sit in on the pitch and were subsequently suspended for two years.
In 2007, the Shumbas went to Bindura for the national finals, beat Churchill and Hwange in the group stages and lost to Pamushana in the semis.
Mutare Boys High went to Chinhoyi for the national finals in 2009 but played with nine players only after most of their players were vetted out and reached the semis where we lost to Dzivarasekwa.
2010 and 2011, Mutare Boys High lost in the provincial finals.
In 2012 they won the provincial title but did not go far as they lost to Churchill.
In 2013 they lost in the provincial finals before they made it to the national finals in 2014 where they lost to Chemhanza in the quarter finals.
In 2015, they went to the national finals in Bulawayo, lost in the group stages and in 2016 they bowed out of competition at provincial level.
Last year was a disgrace when Mutare Boys High lost in the district stage of the competition.