By SANDRA MWILA –
THE 16th edition of the Copa Coca-Cola Schools football tournament kicks off on Monday at the Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) in Lusaka with sponsors Zambian Breweries and Coca-Cola pumping K 1 million.
Winners of the 2014 Under-15 boys competition will walk away with K15,000 with runners up pocketing K10, 000 while the third placed side goes home with K7, 500 and the all the participating teams will be given a full football kit.
The draws conducted yesterday saw Nchelenga Secondary School (Luapula) pitted against Mpika Boys (Muchinga), Annoya Zulu (Eastern), Mwata Day (Southern) and Mahebe (North-Western) in Group A while Group B has Highbridge (Central), Muguwi (Northern), Senanaga (Western), Sekela (Copperbelt) and Chongwe (Lusaka).
Coca Cola brand manager Yvonne Musoko said the plans were still underway to fuse in the girls tournament by 2016.
Musoko said women football was making progress in the country and that Coca Cola and Zambia Breweries would want to be a contributor of the development of women football from the grass roots.
“We have been gender biased for we have not had a Coca-Cola tournament for girls in the past editions. We are working on how best we can organise it, if not 2015 then defiantly 2016,” Musoko said.
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) executive committee member Lee Kawanu commended the sponsors for their continued sport towards the developments football in the country.
Kawanu said FAZ will be fully involved in the tournament in a bid to tap talent from the schools and fuse into the national teams.
Zambia Secondary Schools Sports Association (ZASSSA) president Chipangano Tembo said the tournament provides a good platform for talent identification.
Tembo said the tournament has helped tap talent from secondary schools that have made an impact in the national team and development of soccer in the country.
“We have players like Garry Mwelwa who was identified through the Coca Cola tournament and he is in the Under 17 national team and even scored in Botswana last week during Zambia’s 5-0 win over Botswana in the Niger 2015 Africa Championship qualifiers,” he said.
He added that the competition has seen two players Erick Mbewe and Phebian Chali having an opportunity to attend a training camp in Brazil during the 2014 FIFA World Cup.