The Herald (Harare)

3 June 2011

Zimbabwe: Copa Coca Cola Organisers Consider Girls' Football

ORGANISERS of the Copa Coca Cola Under-16 schools soccer tournament are contemplating adding a feminine feeling to this year's competitions, which will see the girls' football teams taking part for the first time in the 22-year history of the event.

The tournament, which has featured over 200 schools annually, is set for launch next Friday at Dewure High School in Masvingo under the theme "Journey to Stardom."

Coca-Cola Brand Manager Mona Karingi yesterday said the event has been growing in leaps and bounds over the years in Zimbabwe, and it was high time the girls got involved.

She said the ultimate aim will be to unveil talents and help develop the game at the grassroots level.

Women's football had been in decline over the years but the national team's success in the All-Africa Games qualifiers has seen a renewed interest in the women's game.

"Girls are not left out and they will join in very soon. In countries where Copa is still in its early stages, boys are the main participants.

"Where the Copa structure is more advanced, girls participate in the tournament as well.

"We are continously evaluating the tournament structure and look forward to recruiting girls in Zimbabwe. It has been in the pipeline for sometime and it could be this year.

"In Kenya, for example, 200 girl teams registered in 2010 for the tournament. In years past, however, boys have been the main participants in that market," said Karingi.

Dewure High of Masvingo are the defending champions after beating Dangamvura 2-1 in last year's finals held at Mucheke. The draw for this year's tournament will take place at the launch with the finals set for Marondera High on June 30-31.

The tournament was sponsored to the tune of over US$100 000 last year and the organisers have indicated the amount could be more this year.

Karingi said the tournament is a good platform for emerging stars and this year's theme, 'Journey to Stardom', is meant to inculcate values of sportsmanship and diligence.

"It's usually not about the money involved but the benefit these young players stand to get after participating in this tournament".

"Last year we had a team that went to South Africa and experience how others are doing it. They also experienced the World Cup, which is something that is supposed to have lasting impacts in their future careers as footballers.

"Besides this tournament has brought up stars in many countries and we stress that if they play well they could get very far. Coca Cola will take care of the rest if we discover genuine talent that needs support.

"That is why we try to move away from money issues at this stage and let the children concentrate on their talents.

"We want to develop stars. COPA Coca- Cola is the ultimate social event and stardom platform for the modern day teen.

"When it comes to football, our vision is for Coca-Cola to be the number one brand related to football," said Karingi.

The preliminary games will start soon after the launch next week and only one team will qualify from each of the country's 10 provinces.

The provincial winners will then join defending champions Dewure and hosts Marondera at the finals.

Winners will stand a chance to represent Zimbabwe at the Africa Copa Coca Cola Championships which involves countries like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, Zamiba, Malawi, Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Congo, Swaziland, Nigeria and South Africa.

Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritus and Burundi took part in the tournament for the first time in 2010.

Last year's national Dream Team - Dzivarasekwa High - travelled to South Africa and took part in the Championship and finished fifth out of 14 countries.

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