RUJEKO High School are this year’s winners of the Copa Coca-Cola Under-16 boys football tournament after a penalty shootout victory over Chinhoyi High at Pelandaba Stadium in Gwanda yesterday in a tournament marred by allegations of age cheating. By HENRY MHARA IN GWANDA
Rujeko High School team display their medals and trophy after winning the Copa Coca-Cola Boys Under -6 finals in Gwanda yesterday
The match had ended goalless in regulation time before the Mashonaland Central representatives, who were last year’s finalists, triumphed 4-1 in a penalty shootout.
Rujeko lifted the cup without conceding a goal in open play in the tournament, with their defender Panashe Mapuranga scooping the Player of the Tournament award.
The match itself was one-sided as Rujeko dominated play against the physically-imposing Chinhoyi players who were never in the match as they huffed and puffed against a slick passing opponent.
However, the tournament was marred by allegations of age cheating as some schools thought their counterparts used over-aged players.
They protested that some players, aside from their physical attributes, were making decisions that are not expected of a real Under-16 player.
Rujeko’s winning coach, Hardware Chatora, said while his side eventually managed to win the tournament, the performance of some of his opponents suggest that there is more than meets the eye.
“It was a difficult tournament because the opponents we faced especially in the final were a bit older. I think it was only us,
Guinea Fowl, Churchill and Gwanda who used the right age group. We played to our strength, using pace and carpet football which caused them problems. In future, the organisers in the absence of technology and machines they should use independent people for vetting, people who have no interest in the tournament,” he said.
Churchill High School of Harare, who many believed used the right age although they were booted out in the group stage, were disappointed so much that their coach even snubbed the closing ceremony yesterday, opting to stay on the team bus.
Dethroned champions Dewure also had their reservations about some of their opponents after they were booted out at the semi-final by Chinhoyi.
Chinhoyi coach Wycliffe Kafeso though refuted the allegations that his side used over-aged players.
Instead, he said it was only his side that was used the correct age.
National Association for Secondary School Heads (Nash) president Johnson Madhuku admitted that there were some schools who used players over the permitted age group and said they would come hard on those found guilty.
“We are really happy with the levels of competition and skills displayed by the players. Of course they are incidences and complaints here and there and some who could have cheated, but most will agree with me that the winners used the right age.”
“It shows that even if you are young but good, you can still beat those who are older than you. If we receive complaints as Nash we won’t let it go, we will investigate immediately. The problem of age cheating is world over, but we are doing our level best to eradicate it. As part of the vetting process we made the players sign a document as an undertaking that the information they would have provided is true. Some immediately pulled out because we told them we would make a follow-up with their schools and we want to believe that those who remained were the correct age,” he said, before thanking sponsors Delta Beverages for their continued support of the tournament.