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DEFENDING champions in the Copa Coca-Cola boys Under-16 football tournament Chemhanza High say they will battle to retain their title this weekend.

The tournament kicks off this morning and ends tomorrow. This will be the 26th edition of the boys tournament, while the girls’ competition is running for the fourth year.

Today’s matches will be played at Kuwangira, Highfield High School, Takashinga Cricket Academy, Chengu and Zimbabwe Grounds, while tomorrow’s finals are set for Gwanzura.

Chemhanza will be representing Mashonaland East together with Mukondwa, who are the provincial winners, while Mwanza will battle it out in the girls category.

They will be pinning their hopes on the likes of Tatenda Tumba who took part in last year’s event.

Tumba was part of the dream team that emerged at the Copa Coca-Cola International Camp in South Africa last year.

He was voted the best player of the tournament and top goal scorer as he scored six goals for Zimbabwe on their way to winning the trophy.

And Chemhanza coach Never Mhandu said although he will be fielding a relatively new team, as most of their players have graduated into the Under-17, they were ready to defend their title.

“The preparations have been going on very well and the boys are ready and they cannot wait. We are promising to do well, the tournament is a very good competition, it’s like our World Cup.

“We will respect everyone who is going to come for the tournament, who is going to participate but we are not afraid of anybody.

“We will do our best to defend the title, we know it’s going to be difficult.

“Most of our players graduated to the next level, the Under-17s, so most of them are new. Of course, we have the likes of Tatenda Tumba and a few others and we hope they will help the other youngsters,” said Mhandu.

Chemhanza will have to brace up for a tough challenge in the group stages as they are in the same group with former champions Pamushana of Masvingo in Pool A.

They will be joined by Chipadze from Mashonaland Central.

The Chemhanza coach said it will be an exciting pool, which he described as the Group of Death.

“That’s interesting, to me it’ a Group of Death. As a coach I like tough games, they will make the boys ger for the tournament rather than play these weaker games in the group and proceed to the final.

“They (the players) will know what is expected of them. So I cannot wait to play Pamushana. It’s going to be a tough match,” said Mhandu.

In the girls section the limelight will be on title holders, Chidyamakono of Masvingo and their rivals Vainona.

The two teams have been dominating the girls competition since its introduction in 2011 with Vainona winning the first and second editions before they lost to Chidyamakono last year in the finals.

Chidyamakono have already indicated that they are coming to defend their title in this competition as they hope to emulate their rivals who won the title for two consecutive years.

All teams participating were expected to be in Harare by yesterday.

The boys teams will be based at Churchill while the girls are staying at Roosevelt

This year’s tournament will be graced by former Warriors coach, Norman Mapeza, Mighty Warriors coach, Rosemary Mugadza, Footballers Union of Zimbabwe president, Desmond Maringwa, and Tonderayi Ndiraya.

The organisers have also maintained last year’s prizes with the winners for the boys getting US$6 500 and a trophy and the girls will get US$3 000 and a trophy as well.

There will also be prizes for outstanding individuals.

The tournament will also see the selection of the boys and girls Dream Teams.

The boys will compete in the Copa Coca-Cola African finals in Kenya while the girls will attend the Cosasa games in Zambia.

Boys Pools

Pool A: Chemhanza (Mashonaland East), Chipadze (Mashonaland Central), Pamushana (Masvingo).

Pool B: Oriel Boys (Harare), Mzilikazi (Bulawayo), Cheziya (Midlands).

Pool C: Mukondwa (Mashonaland East), Chinonge (Matabeleland North), Mutare Boys High (Manicaland).

Pool D: Churchill (Harare), Vimbai (Mashonaland West), Mzingwane (Matabeleland South).

Girls Pools

Pool A: Roosevelt (Harare), Muzimuni (Matabeleland South), St Francis (Mashonaland Central).

Pool B: Chidzikwe (Masvingo), Magwegwe (Bulawayo), Mwanza (Mashonaland East).

Pool C: Chidyamakono (Masvingo), Chilisa (Matabeleland North), Gato (Midlands).

Pool D: Vainona (Harare), Nyamaruru (Manicaland), Sodbury (Mashonaland West).

Source : The Herald