Ray Bande Senior Sports Reporter
THE country’s flagship junior football tournament Copa Coca Cola turns 30 this year and even if Manicaland has won it once since inception, the province prides itself in tapping into the junior football competition to provide platform to one of the latest gems the high schools soccer tournament has ever produced.
Talented goalkeeper Tatenda Munditi, who once turned out for Mutare City Rovers, was the player of the Copa Coca Cola tournament 2013 edition when his goalkeeping skills literally earned Chemhanza High the coveted national championship accolade.
Munditi and Tatenda Tumba, were in Brazil for six days during the 2014 Soccer World Cup courtesy of Copa Coca-Cola. The two, members of the Chemhanza and Copa Coca-Cola Dream Team, attended a training camp and watched some of the matches at the World Cup before returning home.
Only a year later he was in the books of Mutare City Rovers as a reserve goalkeeper when the municipality owned team was still in the Eastern Region Division One. Today Munditi is now Premiership log leaders Ngezi Platinum property.
In her speech at the media appreciation event held in the capital on Wednesday, Coca Coca senior brand manager Vee Chibanda took note of Munditi and many other stars who came through the 30 year old junior football tournament.
“Such players include Norman Maroto, Knowledge Musona, Harlington Shereni and Khama Billiart and lately we have Tatenda Tumba and Tatenda Munditi, the boys whom Coca Cola recently took to Brazil and they are now shining in the Premier League. “An initiative that began in Zimbabwe ladies and gentlemen is now a global tournament played in more than 68 countries, reaching more than 1.3 million young players worldwide,” she said.
However, Manicaland province has only managed to win it once in its three decades of existence.
The trailblazing Mutare Boys High of 1998 went all the way to win the tournament with the likes of the late Aaron Ngorima, George Sithole, Malcom Meuka among others featuring in that squad.
Outgoing Manicaland NASH Head in Charge of football Joseph Machuwaire said the seasonal soccer sessions in Manicaland school has resulted in underperformance in the Copa Coca Cola tournament.
“There is a marked improvement in girls’ soccer especially for Nyamauru High School in Mutare, Crossdale in Nyanga, Mamunyadza in Buhera and Goko High in Chipinge. For the boys their performance has gone down. They have not been able to go beyond the quarter finals several times.
“Schools participating in this tournament from Manicaland only have football training sessions during Term Two while their counterparts in the Midlands, Mashonaland Central, Harare and Bulawayo provinces have started to have football training sessions throughout the year let alone the presence of soccer academies and sponsorship in those provinces. Therefore that gives them an edge over us,” said Machuwaire.
The incoming Manicaland NASH Head in Charge of football John Muyocha also lamented on the failure by schools in Manicaland to make a lasting impression in the tournament.
“Personally I am also worried about the below average performance of teams from Manicaland and I have had meetings with district heads to find ways of improving our performance. It is work in progress and we welcome all those with ideas and resources to see Manicaland performing better in this tournament,” he said.