From Nyanga to Spain: Nomlinganiselo Primary School earns spot in 2019 Danone Nations Cup world finals
Danone marks its centenary along with the 20th edition of the kids’ soccer tournament in Barcelona in 2019
Nomlinganiselo Primary School in Nyanga, Western Cape, has not only won the under-12 Danone Nations Cup national title at the Dobsonville Stadium, but will also represent SA against 28 countries in the soccer tournament’s world finals to be held in Spain in 2019. This year, 21 boys’ teams and eight girls’ teams took part in the games.
Known as the World Cup for kids, the Danone Nations Cup is the globe’s largest international soccer tournament for 10- to 12-year-olds – more than 2.5-million boys and girls compete every year. SA is one of the few countries that has been participating since it started in 2000. The event has touched the lives of more than 50,000 young South Africans.
Nomlinganiselo has big shoes to fill, as SA is one of only two countries that has won the tournament three times – in 2003, 2007 and 2009 – with France being the other.
To celebrate Danone’s centenary in 2019 and mark the 20th edition of the Danone Nations Cup, both the 2018 and 2019 world finals will take place in Barcelona. The dates are still to be announced.
The competition plays another important role. It provides an opportunity for the scouts from professional clubs and development academies to get an early look at the cream of the young talent out there. They help to channel the players they identify into high schools and academies where they can flourish.
Many have gone on to compete in the professional leagues and even play for Bafana Bafana, such as Kamohelo Mokotjo, Kermit Erasmus, Ronwen Williams and Luther Singh. At least 10 young talents were identified during the 2018 national finals and will be attending trials at various academies.
Nomlinganiselo won the Western Cape title and went on to beat Charles Morgan Primary School in the Eastern Cape in a penalty shootout in the national final.
Coach Ntokozo Mazwi described that win as the finest of his career but has no illusions about the task ahead. “I am extremely proud of my boys. When one considers that our school has poor soccer facilities and we have limited equipment for training yet still managed to beat schools that have much more than us, [that] is testament to how determined and courageous the team was,” he said.
The primary focus now is to prepare the boys emotionally for the experience. “I will teach them all about Barcelona and the countries we will be playing against, while continuing to build their confidence. We are going to look for support from the local structures to find better training facilities to get the boys used to playing on good surfaces,” said Mazwi.
Combining the national finals of two years in 2019 means that the team will have more time to prepare – something that has been a challenge in recent years.
For Danone, the tournament is also about encouraging kids to believe in their dreams and to instil in them the importance of developing healthy eating habits at a young age.
“It is a privilege for Danone to be involved in this event,” said Chantel Ehlers, internal communications manager at Danone Southern Africa. “The Danone Nations Cup reaches out to millions of young kids all over the world and reflects our approach and values – to bring people together in a spirit of fun, openness, sharing, emotion and respect, and to get them to believe that anything is possible while instilling our mission to bring health through food to as many people as possible. We look forward to 2019 and helping make dreams come true for the next crop of young soccer players.”
The international Danone Nations Cup ambassador is former French international footballer Zinedine Zidane.
“Zinedine came on board in 2003 and has attended most of the world finals where he watches the games and interacts with the kids and encourages them to keep working hard and striving to do better,” said Ehlers.
The local competition is run by the South African Schools Football Association. A record-setting 3,000 schools competed in the 2018 tournament. Registration for 2019 will open shortly.
For more information, visit the Danone Nations Cup website and Facebook page.
This article was paid for by Danone.