In two weeks time Mophela Primary School’s under-12 soccer team leaves for New York City to play in the Danone Nations Cup World Finals.
The last of the paperwork is being competed, which is the Visas for the USA and then the packing will start.
In the meantime, the hard work of preparing for the tournament is going on. The South Africans are in a tough section for the preliminary rounds, grouped with the UAE, England and Indonesia and coach, Siyabonga Ndimande, has warned the boys that none of them can be taken lightly and that winning the preliminary stage games is essential to put the team through to the top half of the tournament for the second round.
The team has been training at the Mpumalanga Stadium in Hammarsdale to give the players experience of practicing on a good surface, similar to the ones they will be playing on in the USA.
Karabo Litabe, one of the players at Royal Eagles, the Durban-based National First Division Club, read about Mophela in a local newspaper and has donated soccer balls and other training equipment to the team.
“He has also offered to assist the coaches and team at a few training sessions and has also donated goalposts to the school,” Ndimande said. “He can give the boys valuable insight into playing in such tournaments.”
The boys have been working hard and are looking forward to a mind-broadening experience. “Meeting international players, learning new techniques and seeing another part of the world are all experiences of a lifetime,” Ndimande said.
The coach has been watching video clips of matches and doing research on the other teams in the group.
UAE is taking part in the Danone Nations Cup for the first time, but Ndimande won’t underestimate them because they will be dangerous underdogs.
The English are a passionate soccer nation and some of their players will play for local clubs, so they will be a challenge, but Ndimande is pretty confident that we can beat them.
The biggest challenge could come from the Indonesians. He has watched them play and their players are fast, and good distributors of the ball. “Our defence is going to have to be strong against them,” Ndimande concluded.
There will be 32 countries participating in the 18th edition of the ‘Kids’ World Cup’. It is a unique experience based on fundamental values that Danone has created over the years – humanity, openness, pleasure of the game and fair play. The tournament has given millions of kids the opportunity of believing in their dreams and being heroes of a story they will never forget.
The mission of the Danone Nations Cup is to bring health through food to as many people as possible and the kids from KZN, as well as playing soccer, will also get to play games that will be based on the importance of developing healthy lifestyles which will benefit them throughout their lives.
The preliminary games will kick-off on Friday, 22 September with the finals on Sunday, 24 September.