The richest high school football tournament in Africa, the Sanlam Kay Motsepe Schools Cup is about to get under way. The deadline to enter the competition closed yesterday and the South African Schools Football Association (SASFA) is counting the last entries. Over 2 500 schools are expected to fight for a slice of the R4.3 million in prize money.
The winning school will receive a whopping R1m, second place R600 000, 3rdplace R500 000 and 4th place R400 000. In addition the 9 provincial winners each collect R100 000.However no cash is paid to the winning schools, but the schools identify their needs and these projects are funded. Eletsa High School from the North West is a good example of how schools can benefit from their prize money. The school won R500 000 in 2010 and spent the money on drilling a bore hole giving the school water, restoring electricity, upgrading classrooms, they purchased computers and erected perimeter fencing to keep the pupils safe. Other schools have bought buses, built sports fields and sports combo’s, purchased school equipment and sports kit, just to name a few.
Nelspruit’s East High College of Excellence will be in action this year. The school won R600 000 for finishing as runners-up in the 2012 National Finals,losing to the Transnet SAFA School of Excellencein the final, and won a further R100 000 for finishing as the top school in Mpumalanga. The school has chosen to spend their winnings on finishing a block of extra classrooms they started two years ago.
Abel Nkuna, manager of the team, explained that the school is a football academy based in Mpumalanga. This is their third year in the tournament. He says the team started training in January and the players are now starting to understand each other. “Most of last year’s players were in matric, so it’s a completely new squad,” he said. “We are looking forward to defending our provincial title and I am certain that we will make it to the national finals, although it’s not going to be easy.”
The team is not as strong as last year’s, but the coach and his technical team are working hard with them. “I am only worried about two opponents: Lowveld High School is in the same circuit as us, and whoever wins between us will represent the region at the provincial finals,” he said.
“If we do get to the provincials then we will probably come up against School of Excellence again. If we do, we will be ready.”
The challenge about being based in Nelspruit, according to Nkuna, is that there are not many schools to play friendly matches against. “Most of the schools around us play more rugby and cricket than football. The only time we get to play serious friendly matches is against Second division teams and those teams have tight schedules.”
No East College boys have gone through to play in the Premier League yet, but eight of last year’s team will be going for trials at Bloemfontein Celtic in June.