Schools soccer scores big

2013-03-27 00:00

SOCCER has always been the poorer younger sibling of cricket and rugby in Pietermaritzburg’s major schools, but with the announcement of next month’s Nashua Maritzburg United Midlands School Soccer Challenge, things are finally starting to look up for young footballers in the region.

United hosted last year’s inaugural Midlands Cup, which was contested over a single day.

But as is the case with any event, sponsorship is essential.

With the backing of Nashua Pietermaritzburg this year, the tournament will see eight schools playing in a two-leg knockout format that gets under way on April 9.

All of the matches will be played at Harry Gwala Stadium, and the May 11 final will be played as the curtain-raiser to Maritzburg United’s final PSL home game of the season against Ajax Cape Town.

The eight schools have been given a new playing kit and the team mebers have been given complimentary tickets to all of Maritzburg United’s remaining home matches this season.

“It is a fantastic initiative for the schools and for us,” said United team manager Quinton Jettoo.

“It provides a pool of talent that will hopefully allow for more Maritzburg-based players to get into the Maritzburg United team.”

Maritzburg College’s Bandile Shandu, currently in matric, was the latest Maritzburger to join United when he signed midway through this season.

Each of the eight schools has also been assigned a celebrity coach in the form of a United star who will spend time with his team on match days.

With school cricket enjoying the annual night series at the PMB Oval and with rugby sides having countless festivals to attend each year, the Midlands School Soccer Challenge could well become a permanent fixture on the school sport calendar.

“When it came to this event, developing our youth and contributing to the sport that is followed by the majority of our nation is what was important,” said Nashua PMB’s managing director Nad Naidoo.

“Through this, we will hopefully see a star from PMB making it all the way to the national team.”

Naidoo said the success of the tournament this year would determine whether there would be any involvement from his organisation’s side next year. “I think we need to take it year by year,” he said.

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