Danone Cup winners: From KZN to Reiger Park and now off to the USA

Captain fantastic Kwanda Zungu, who scored a brace in the final, hoisted the 2017 Danone Nations Cup National Finals trophy to spark wild celebrations.

The champions enjoyed the best possible start at the WJ Clement Stadium with an early goal through captain Kwanda Zungu before being asked to absorb tremendous pressure from their Komatipoort opponents.

While Mophela buried their best chance of the half Sekusile failed to do so as the absorbing final went into the break at 1-0. Following numerous questions asked to the champions’ defence, Sekusile’s Perseverance Sibambo was presented with half a chance to level matters before the break but his toe-poked effort hit the upright before being adjudged offside.

Leading from the front: Mophela captain Kwanda Zungu celebrates his first goal in the final.

The second stanza began in similar fashion with Zungu completing his brace against the run of play as Mophela began to daydream.

But it was all Sekusile from there as they pushed harder to get back into the game. The best chance of the half was created by their most dangerous player and No.10 maestro Vuyo Msimanga.

His ball control and skills sent few Mophela defenders to the cleaners before he was brilliantly denied by Sekusile goalkeeper Eza Mandulo, who pulled off one of the saves of the day.

Sekusile refused to give up as they huffed and puffed but an organised Mophela defence, led by their outstanding goalkeeper, thwarted the attacks.

Their pressure paid off with Msimanga finally getting his goal – but it was too little too late.

The school football jamboree saw champion schools of all nine provinces in action at the day-long tournament, Mophela being the KwaZulu-Natal provincial champions, while Sekusile were representing Mpumalanga.

Sekusile were unbeaten in the round-robin phase of the tournament. They caused a big upset when they beat Gauteng’s Acron Park Primary School 1-0, who went into the tournament as one of the favourites after dominating the Gauteng provincials. Sekusile also beat Banhara-Bodulong Intermediate School of the Northern Cape 2-0 and Isaac Booi Primary of the Eastern Cape 3-0 to finish top of Group A.

Mophela also emerged unbeaten in their group.

They drew with impressive Haggai Independent School, from Limpopo, before going on to beat Mmamitlwa Primary of North West 3-0. Next was Western Cape’s Idas Valley, whom they beat 2-1 before a 3-1 thumping to Phaphama Public School from Free State to set-up the clash against Sekusile.

As national champions, the KZN outfit has earned the right to represent the country at the Danone Nations Cup World Finals in New York City, USA, in September.

The school’s voluntary coach, Siyabonga Ndimande, said: “Words fail me! It hasn’t sunk in yet but it is a dream come true. It has been a long journey which started in 2015. We won through to the national finals that year but didn’t do well.

“That spurred us on to plan ahead and the current team is two years in the making. In fact, two of my key players on Saturday have played in the Danone Nations Cup for three years.”

The mentor proceeded to laud the quality that was on display.

“Any school could have won judging by the standard of football I saw. In our group, the team that challenged us the most was Haggai, from Limpopo. Their technical skills such as passing and control of the ball were good.”

The coach also admitted that he did not achieve this success on his own. “I must give credit to our principal, Cyril Ntsele, and the Durban Mayor, who assisted us by providing tracksuits and other key equipment and the community who all played a big role in our success.”

Sabelo Mashego
Sports Journalist

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