Tourney successful despite tragedy

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TAKE away the tragic end of the 30th edition of the COPA Coca-Cola that saw the death of the iconic Sam Mazvanya – the brains behind the tournament — the controversies of age-cheating, the chaotic scenes and match abandonments, then the schools soccer tourney was a major success.
However, after witnessing action in the 30th edition of the COPA Coca-Cola that saw Pamushana High clinching the boys Under-15 title and Nyamauru High School, the girls Under-15 trophy, Mazvanya died in the early hours of Sunday.
The sudden death of Mazvanya, the man whose idea spread to various countries who are now playing in the schools soccer tournament, was a huge blow to the nation.
He attended all the editions of the competition since 1989 and 64 countries have a similar tournament throughout the world with a reach of two million schoolchildren.
On Thursday night, during the welcome cocktail party, Mazvanya was honoured together with other luminaries who include former Mzilikazi High School’s Cuthbert Chiromo for the iconic contributions to COPA Coca-Cola.
The vetting process saw some teams left with seven players as National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) used the unpopular physical screening that supersedes any documents, including passports.
The physical vetting process continues to affect several pupils who may have big statures.
The scourge of age cheating has seen NASH pressing hard on schools who use unorthodox means to win the lucrative competition.
As a result, some use over-aged players to win the tournament, prejudicing the deserving age group.
A girl from Chamakanda High School was allegedly vetted out for ‘looking like a boy’.
In some instances, players who are later selected for the Dream Team that travels outside the country will not turn out as they would have used identity documents belonging to others.
Back to the action; Chidyamakono High School of Chivi was dethroned in the group stages in the girls category.
It was a surprise to many as the school’s five-year dominance ended in unfamiliar fashion.
Just like at the recently held World Cup in Russia, the defending champions crashed out in the group stages.
Chidyamakono lost 0-1 to Gweshe of Mashonaland Central before a goalless draw with Mwami from Mashonaland West.
Gweshe and Mwami progressed to the next stage of the competition.
The boys defending champions, Rusununguko, crashed out in the group stage.
They were in a group of death with Pamushana and Pfupajena.
The group ended with all the teams at two points as they were involved in 1-all draws.
As a result, a penalty shoot-out had to decide those to proceed to the next stage of the competition.
Rusununguko lost both penalty shoot-outs, giving Pfupajena and Pamushana a chance to proceed.
It was a repetition of last year’s final as Rusununguko and Pfupajena met again at COPA Coca-Cola.
Last year, Rusununguko won the penalties to be crowned champions.
Pamushana met Guinea Fowl in the finals, while Nyamauru clashed with Mpopoma.
Pamushana won 2-0 to be crowned champions, while Nyamauru edged Mpopoma 2-1.
Mpopoma made history at the 30th edition, becoming the first school to have two teams at the finals.
There were a number of rural schools that made their debut at the COPA Coca-Cola finals, like Simbo from Nkayi, Chamakanda from Chirumhanzu, Chenhuta from Murehwa, Gweshe from Chiweshe and Kanyemba from Zambezi Valley where Zimbabwe shares the border with Mozambique and Zambia.
All the debutants reached the second round of the competition.
Competition was a gear up in the tournament as witnessed by the surprises at the tournament. Having debutants knocking out defending champions in the case of Gweshe is proof there are no more big names in the competition.
The girls final was mouth-watering.
Nyamauru girls, who had been trying to make an impression at the games for the third time, got their reward.
The school broke the jinx to convincingly win against fancied Mpopoma.
Nyamauru had several skillful players making it into the 20-member dream team to tour Kenya later this year.
Six players from Nyamauru; Nomqhele Thwala, Martha Tirivangana, Mavis Kambafire, Charmaine Magoronga, Nyasha Katsara, Bethel Kondo and Tafadzwa Kapeyama made it into the Dream Team, a clear testimony the team was made up of gems.
The boys’ final saw the dominance of the match by Pamushana High, a school that has produced stars like Artwell Mukandi and Simba Nhivi, among others.
It was headmaster Johnson Madhuku’s second COPA Coca-Cola title at the school.
The trophy bridges a 10-year drought since clinching the prestigious title in 2007.
Masvingo Province schools have dominated in the COPA Coca-Cola tournament in both categories.

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