PRINCE Edward (PE) School soccer coach Tonderai Ndiraya is optimistic that home advantage will count when his team host the Pinda muSmart/Ngena kuSmart National Association of Schools Heads (NASH) Under-20 national finals today.
Twelve teams, including 10 provincial winners, the host PE and defending champions Churchill High, converge at the Harare school this morning to fight for the schools’ most prestigious tournament.
This year’s edition is sponsored by Population Services International (PSI) under their Pinda muSmart/Ngena kuSmart programme whose primary aim is to encourage school going adolescent boys to get circumcised as a way curbing the spread of HIV and Aids.
The provincial representatives at today’s finals are Marlborough (Harare), Rujeko (Mashonaland Central), Conway (Mashonaland West), Chemhanza (Mashonaland East), Gandauta (Manicaland), Rio Tindo Zhombe (Midlands), Gutu (Masvingo), Gwanda High (Matabeleland South), Gifford (Bulawayo) and Hlangabeza of Matabeleland North.
The national finals draw was conducted during the launch of the tournament in Harare a fortnight with Group B which features defending champions Churchill, Chemhanza and Hlangabeza arguably the Group of Death.
Prince Edward were handed what appears a very comfortable draw as they will face little known Rujeko and Gandauta, but the team’s coach Ndiraya said he will not take his opposition for granted.
“We are looking forward to playing and hopefully win the tournament at home,” said the former Dynamos assistant coach.
“Hopefully the supporters can really get behind the team throughout the tournament, create an intimidating atmosphere for the opponent. We expect tough games from the group stage through out but we have a very strong team and Im confident we will do well. ”
Added Ndiraya: “We played Rujeko in a friendly match recently and won 3-0, but it would be a whole different game this time around. We have very little knowledge on Gandauta, but because they earned their place here means that they are a very strong team and should not take them for granted. There would be strong opposition especially from teams from Harare and the likes of Chemhanza so my boys will have to be very strong if they harbour any chances of winning the tournament.”
Players to watch in Ndiraya’s squad are Issa Sadiki, younger brother of Warriors and TP Mazembe midfielder Ali, Mussa Kalombe and Thomas Chidewo, who recently returned from a football exchange programme in England.
There was, however, doubts over the availability of goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva for PE as he is with his club Dynamos who are playing in the One Wallet Cup final tomorrow.
All the teams were expected to have arrived at PE by midday yesterday for a vetting process which was set for 1400hrs.
Group A: Conway, Rio Tinto Zhombe, Gwanda High.
Group B: Churchill, Hlangabeza, Chemhanza.
Group C: Prince Edward, Rujeko, Gandauta.
Group D: Marlborough, Gutu, Gifford.