It's Copa time!

THE country’s premier Under 16 and 17 boys’ and girls’ secondary schools football tournament; the Copa Coca-Cola enters its second and decisive round this morning with all the 10 provinces aiming to qualify for the nationals.

The finals are scheduled for Gwanda between July 22 and 24.  Matabeleland South got down to business yesterday, the first province to hold their provincial finals while action from other 12 centres kicks off today.

Copa Coca-Cola is a schools grassroots football tournament which aims to identify, nurture and reward the best in young footballing talent. And as the premier grassroots tournament, it also seeks to unlock the ambitious dreams and possibilities of Africa’s football stars as well as to inspire young footballers to achieve their dreams through a renowned and respected pan-African soccer tournament.

The project started as a pilot project 28 years ago has become the hallmark of success in schools soccer, an important feeder for the country’s Under 17 national teams.

The impact of the Copa Coca-Cola Under-17 soccer tournament has no doubt changed the scope of Zimbabwean football landscape as year in year out representatives coming through this initiative have gone all the way to represent the country at national team level. The world’s largest beverages company together with its bottling partners in Zimbabwe entered into partnership with National Association of Secondary School Heads way back in 1989 and this relationship has produced an array of stars who have gone on to represent the country at the senior national level.

Zimbabwe’s all-time leading goal scorer and one of the finest players to emerge from southern Africa Peter Ndlovu is one such individual who rose to prominence through the Copa Coca-Cola tournament. Former Warriors midfielder Alois Bunjira, left back Harlington Shereni and the current crop of national team players including goalkeeper Washington Arubi, hitman Knowledge Musona and midfielder Ovidy Karuru are all products of the Copa Coca-Cola tournament designed to discover budding football talents.

The provincial finals are a culmination of the 2016 grassroots tournament launched in May at Dewure High School this year with action having started at zonal level.

The script is the same across 20 other African countries where gems are unearthed, dreams realised and a living guaranteed in the world’s most beautiful game of football.

This year’s provincial venues are: Bulawayo (Gifford High School), Mat South (Filabusi High School), Mat North (Fatima High School), Midlands (Kwekwe High School), Masvingo (Dewure High School), Mash East (Ignatius High School), Manicaland (Mamunyadza High School), Mash Central (Hermann Gmeiner, boys and Chipindura High School girls), Harare (Churchill High School, boys and Roosevelt High School, girls), Mash West (Rimuka 2 High School, boys and Munyaradzi School, girls)

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