Benny’s Sports Development and Academy of Louis Trichardt are the 2016 Danone Nations Cup national champions after winning the title in Boksburg last weekend.
They are the first school from Limpopo province to take the title and the first sports development school to win it.
They beat the North West champions, BM Mokitime Primary School, in a penalty shootout, after a closely contested final ended goalless.
As national champions, Benny’s will represent South Africa at the Danone Nations Cup world finals in France from October 14th to 16th.
BM Mokitime came into the finals as favourites after an impressive performance in the provincial finals.
After neither team managed to score in regulation time in the final match, it came down to penalties and Benny’s took it.
Benny’s coach, Mbishi Mokwena, said that the tournament is about ‘believing in your dreams’ and his dream since January was to win it.
“We followed the tournament religiously on Facebook. We knew who had gone through to the finals, investigated the type of football they played and the quality of players and we prepared accordingly,” he said.
His team went into the nationals focused, confident, quiet and determined, he said. The night prior to the nationals, while the kids from the other schools were running around having fun, his boys decided among themselves to stay focused and not let the bright lights of Joburg get to them. “We remained focused on the task ahead,” Mokwena said.
“I was nervous about playing BM Mokitime in the final. They had won all their games whereas two of our games ended in a draw, and I knew prior to the nationals that they were a good side. But I had faith in my team.”
The coach said that he didn’t change anything in the run up to the nationals. “Team changes or changes in strategy can throw players this young off their stride, so we did what we normally do in the week prior to the nationals.”
Benny’s were in a tough pool at the nationals. They were grouped with former national champions Barkerville Primary, but they beat them on penalties in what Mokwena described as their most difficult league game on the day.
The school is on holiday at the moment, so they will have to wait a while for the real celebrations to begin, but preparations for the world finals are already under way.
“We have asked for videos of previous world final games to help us prepare,” Mokwena said. “I know that it is a whole new ball game now, but I’m not going to put too much pressure on the boys as that will affect their confidence and therefore their performance.
“We will note the different methods of play and build our game accordingly. One thing I know is that almost every country will have players bigger than ours, but we are nimble and able to work around this.”
Going to France will be an opportunity to learn different styles of play, but he wants the boys to enjoy the experience of being part of one of the biggest soccer development tournaments in the world.
“My ultimate dream is to be the most successful development school in South Africa. This age, 10 to 12 years old, is the most important phase because young players can absorb a lot of information and they are easier to instruct. Dealing with teenagers is more difficult because they start to believe that they know better, which is the downfall of many a player’s career.”
Benny’s Care has an advantage because it is both a primary and a high school so Mokwena said he can watch how this experience will help the players grow and how they use it as part of their progress through to professional football.
“I would like to thank Danone for giving the opportunity, every year, to 2.5 million kids to follow their dreams by being part of such an important tournament.”
Team 1: North West- BM Mokitime Primary
Team 2: Free State-Witsieshoek Primary School Primary
Team 3: Mpumalanga-Nancy Shiba Primary School
Team 4: Gauteng- St Joseph’s Kulani Primary School.
Team 5: Northern Cape: Van Rensburg Primary School
Team 6: Western Cape- St Helena Bay Primary School
Team 7: Eastern Cape- Barkerville Primary School
Team 8: Limpopo- Benny’s Sports Development & Academy
Team 9: Kwa-Zulu Natal- Mthethomusha Primary School
BM Mokitime PS 1 vs. Witsieshoek PS 0
St Helena Bay PS 1 (2) vs. (11) Barkerville 1 (3)
Nancy Shiba PS 2 vs. St Joseph Kulani PS 1
Benny’s SDA 0 (2) vs. Mthethomusha PS 0 (1)
Van Rensburg PS 0 vs. BM Mokitime PS 2
Witsieshoek PS 0 vs. St Joseph’s Kulani PS 1
Barkerville PS 2 vs. Mthethomusha PS 0
Nancy Shiba PS 1 (2) vs. Van Rensburg 1 (3)
St Joseph’s Kulani Primary School 1 vs. BM Mokitime PS 2
Mthethomusha PS 5 vs. St Helena Bay PS 1
Witsieshok PS 0 vs. Nancy Shiba PS 1
Barkerville PS 1 (6) vs. Benny’S SDA 1 (7)
St Joseph’s Kulani PS 1 vs. Van Rensburg 2
BM Mokitime 0 (2) vs. Nancy Shiba PS 0 (1)
St Helena Bay PS 1 vs. Benny’s SDA 2
Van Rensburg 1 vs Witsieshoek PS 0
Final – Benny’s SDA 0 (3) vs. BM Mokitime PS 0 (2).