From squatter camp to Barcelona!

Rebonwe girls from Gauteng and KZN’s Muzuvukile boys will be travelling to Spain to participate in the Danone Nations Cup world finals 

South Africa will make history later this year by sending an under-12 girls soccer team to compete in the Danone Nations Cup world finals, where they will be competing against seven other nations. And the team that will represent the country will be a group of players from a squatter camp in Ivory Park, Gauteng. They earned this opportunity by winning the Danone Nations Cup girls tournament that took place at Reiger Park, Boksburg this past weekend.

They will be accompanied by the boys from Muzuvukile Primary School of Enseleni, a rural area near Richards Bay, who won the boys national finals at the same venue.

A girls tournament was introduced for the first time this year but because most schools do not have girls-only teams, it was a pilot tournament in Gauteng only, with 40 schools participating.

There were regional finals and 8 schools went through to a provincial playoff. The teams that reached the semifinals there were then invited to compete at the national finals.

Rebonwe met Michael Mkhwanazi Primary in the final. They had played each other earlier in the day and Michael Mkhwanazi won the closely contested match 2-1.

So, Rebonwe knew that they were in for a tough game in the final and gave it everything from the beginning. This time they were better prepared and created many scoring opportunities. They were first to score, but Michael Mkhwanazi equalised within minutes.

Rebonwe had the better of the exchanges from then on and came close to scoring right at the end of the game. It ended in a draw, however, and went to a penalty shootout which Rebonwe won, to add the national title to their provincial title.

At the same time, the nine boys provincial champions competed in the playoffs for their national title. The teams were divided into 2 groups with the teams that topped the log meeting in the final.

Muzuvukile was always going to be the team to beat based on their exceptional performance in the provincial finals. They are a very strong team and three of their players have been invited to attend trials at Mamelodi Sundowns. They won all their league games to finish top of their pool and met Group B winners Patekile from the Eastern Cape in the final match.

Muzuvukile were the only team that won all their matches leading up to the final and the final was very much like the group stages.

They made many chances to score but the Patekile goalkeeper, Alethu Mathumbu, was outstanding, saving shot after shot. Patekile tried to take advantage of the odd counter-attack but they never really threatened the Muzuvukile goal.

With a couple of minutes left in the match, just as the spectators started to think that we would have another penalty shootout, Siyanda Masinga from Muzuvukile managed to get the ball past Alethu and give Muzuvukile the lead. They had a few more chances to add to their lead but once again Alethu was there to stop them scoring and they ran out 1-0 winners.

It’s now back to school for both the boys and girls winners to put together a plan in preparation of the world finals scheduled for Barcelona starting on 10th October.

On the final day of the world finals – 12th October – all the games will take place at the RCDE Stadium, home ground La Liga club, RCD Espanyol de Barcelona.

In attendance at the national finals was Amanda Dlamini, ex captain of Banyana Banyana, who was there to encourage the girls. “I was 22 when I first travelled overseas for Banyana Banyana and I remember that experience well.  It was daunting and a bit frightening, but it opened my eyes to the limitless opportunities that exist in the world.  I matured fast and I believe these young 12 year-olds will feel the same.”

The 2018 and 2019 world finals will be held as a double header.  “Barcelona is symbolic as it was in this city in 1919 that Isaac Carasso created the first Danone yogurt with the aim of improving one’s health,” said Marlinie Kotiah, General Secretary Danone Southern Africa.  “We are combining Danone’s centenary and the 20th edition of the world final in a bumper edition this year.  It also coincides with our new brand positioning and purpose, One Planet One Health, which reflects our belief that the health of humankind and that of the planet are interlinked and both need to be protected and nurtured.

“Through the Danone Nations Cup, we are contributing to bringing this vision to life by promoting the importance of exercise. Further, we are encouraging our young athletes to ‘Play Football, Change the Game’, which is a rallying message to unite children, irrespective of their backgrounds and cultures, and to encourage them to become catalysts for positive change,” concluded Kotiah.

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