The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Will Dembare Rule Juniors?

SOME of the best crop of teenage football talent in Harare will be on display at Gwanzura tomorrow when Dynamos and Startrack battle for the Startrack Freight Under-20 championship. A number of

prominent coaches are expected at Gwanzura and will be on the look-out for the best of the teenage players who could turn into the next big thing in the domestic Premiership.

DeMbare's juniors defeated their CAPS United counterparts to qualify for the final where they will meet Startrack, a team owned by the sponsors of the tournament, who are the defending champions.

The CAPS United juniors and DC Academy, who fell at the semi-final stage, will be the curtain-raisers to the main match.

Rickson Zenda, the managing director of Startrack Freight, who is co-sponsoring the tournament with Billy Shereni of Shereni Transport, yesterday said they poured about US$10 000 into this year's tourney.

Zenda said they were not being driven by the possible benefits that could be ripped from sponsoring such a tournament but just to give the emerging players a platform to showcase their football talent.

"The drive really is just to give the boys a chance to play in a competitive environment and that is the only way they can get better as football players in the long-term and we are happy that the second edition of our tournament is bigger and better than the first one because the big boys have now come in," said Zenda.

"When you love football you don't think about the costs because you are just following your passion and we have our own academy, which is a Division Two team, and we have been working closely with coaches, who are involved in junior development programmes, in the Highfield area.

"We can only do so much but if our contribution can make a difference then we will be happy at the end of the day because the most important point that should be made is that we are giving the emerging boys a chance to showcase their talent."

The organisers were criticised for staging the tournament at the Zimbabwe Grounds with a representative of Division One side, Twalumba, sharply condemning the state of the pitches there.

But Zenda said their tournament was still in its infancy and it was not possible for them to run a flawless event at this stage.

The Harare businessman said what was important was that the same players used the same facilities, virtually every day, and taking them elsewhere, simply because they were now holding a tournament, would be creating an artificial project.

The challenge, instead, said Zenda, was up to the municipalities to ensure they improve the football grounds like the ones found at Zimbabwe Grounds.

"These are historic grounds because that is where the likes of Denver Mukamba came from," a spokesman for the organisers said.

The final, though, will be held at Gwanzura. On Thursday, Startrack coach, Ikabort Masocha, said they were not under pressure to deliver and were ready for the final.

"I think we can face any team as we have come a long way to be in the finals. Dynamos will be under pressure as our boys will want to beat the best," he said.

"We are looking forward to a tough match but we are the defending champions and can not let our title just slip away from us.

"We are not intimidated by their name as the players are of the same age although we have respect for our opponents."

Dynamos assistant coach Herbert Maruwa said they were ready to clear the final hurdle and end a very good season for the club on a flying note.

"We have won in the senior level and we cannot manage to lose in our junior ranks.

"The team is well prepared for the final and we will fight to the very end to win the trophy," said Maruwa.

"We have a name to protect so it will not be a walk in the park for Startrack. The event has attracted a lot of clubs who are competitive but we managed to pull through.

"Our aim is to see these youngsters progress to the next stage."

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