COPA Coca-Cola a gear up

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THE 30th edition of the COPA Coca-Cola soccer tournament enters homestretch as teams battle for the ticket to the national finals in the provincial encounters slated for today (Friday).
The country’s biggest schools soccer tournament will see secondary schools battling for one slot in each province to feature at the finals pencilled for the weekend of July 12-14 2018 in Zvishavane.
Each province will send two teams, one for the Under-15 Boys and Girls categories.
The defending champions and hosts have an automatic qualification.
About 24 schools will be battling for the coveted first prize of a trophy and US$5 400.
The winner’s prize also comes with several other benefits that include a project of the school’s choice to be carried out under the COPA Coca-Cola Legacy Project.
All provinces will witness action, save for two the Matabeleland provinces where the games started yesterday.
Mashonaland West Province whose top team, Pfupajena High School, narrowly missed clinching the cup last year, will host the matches in Chegutu at St Francis High School.
Pfupajena blew a 1-0 lead to be forced to a 1-all draw after full time by 10-man Rusununguko High School before losing the match in the penalty shootout at Trojan Stadium in Bindura.
Lord Malvern will be Harare Province hosts where several exciting matches are expected.
The last time a Harare school won the COPA Coca-Cola competition was in 2012 when Vainona High School girl’s team won the then Under-17 girls cup at Chinotimba Stadium after beating Chidyamakono.
Tables have since been turned with Chidyamakono beating Vainona in the finals at Sakubva Stadium in Mutare before going on to win the tournament a record five times.
In Mashonaland East, St Francis of Assis (boys) and Madzivire (girls) High schools host the province’s tournament while Mamunyadza High School will host the Manicaland games.
Mamunyadza were last year’s dark horses at the competition as they reached the finals.
Mamunyadza High School coach Albert Mutandwa was a satisfied man last year after reaching the finals, despite losing the coveted cup.
The 2016 boys champions, Rujeko High School, will host Mashonaland Central Province matches in Glendale today.
Rujeko failed to defend their title last year, crushing out in the quarter finals.
Gifford will host Bulawayo Province matches with Pamushana High School hosting Masvingo Province.
Pamushana High last reached the finals of the tournament in 2012 when they lost to Mzingwane High at Chinotimba Stadium in Victoria Falls.
Using home advantage, the Bikita-based school will seek to make another appearance at the national finals in the mining town.
Collen Bawn High School will be hosting schools in Matabeleland South while Binga and Manjolo high schools play host to Matabeleland North Province.
COPA Coca-Cola continues to play a pivotal role in the development of grassroots soccer as it has a reach of thousands of budding footballers.
The competition starts in clusters, zones, districts and provinces before reaching the finals.
More than 2 000 schools are participating in the competition.
Internationally, 68 countries play in the COPA Coca-Cola competition.

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