Preparations for the national finals of the under-12 Danone Nations Cup soccer tournament are well underway.  The nine provincial champions are getting in those last practice sessions before they all head to Soweto’s Dobsonville Stadium on the 15th of September.

The winner there will represent South Africa in the Danone Nations Cup world finals in Barcelona, Spain in 2019.

There is great excitement in the North West with Busisiwe Mangena being the first female coach to take a team to the national finals.  “I am ready for action,” she said.  “I am excited beyond words about getting the school to the national finals, and this is the first time we have reached this stage despite having been competing in the tournament for many years.”

Busisiwe teaches Natural Science and is the Maths department head as well as the coach.  She has no formal coaching qualifications, but soccer is her passion and she is honoured to have been given the chance to coach the youngsters.  “Competing at this level says a lot. It shows that nothing is impossible,” she said. “I’ve beaten many soccer teams that are coached by male coaches and this proves that what is needed is dedication, perseverance and hard work. Our results show that with determination you can reach your goal. You must just believe in your dreams!”

For some of the players this will be the first time they will be travelling to Gauteng and they are very excited to see the big city. The key player in the team is the captain and striker, Bangani Mbone. “He is an organised young boy and very disciplined,” Busisiwe said. “Not only is he a good footballer but also a good scholar and he also helps the other boys with their homework.”

The school has produced many sportsmen and community leaders who have gone on to make names for themselves, including rugby Springbok Albert Van Den Berg who was a rugby World Cup winner in 2007.

Busisiwe has increased the team’s training schedule in preparation for the nationals, but she doesn’t want the boys to become overwhelmed, so she has not scheduled practice matches. “I think we need to focus on our skills and getting the tactics right,” she said. “I am purposely not thinking about the other schools in the nationals. The boys must be confident and focused on their own game plan, not worrying about the opposition.”

Nutrition plays an important part of preparation, she said. “It’s important for children to build up their muscle tone in preparation for the number of games they will be playing at the national finals. Carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals are all key in ensuring the boys will be in peak condition when they take to the field. The sad part is that they tend to prefer foods that are not necessarily good for them.”

It would be exciting to win the trip to Spain and be the first woman coach to take a South African team to the world finals, Busiswe said. “Let’s see what happens at the finals. A step at a time!”