DURBAN - Edendale Technical High School’s girls’ U16 football team will come home to a surprise celebration and welcome back ceremony, after making KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa proud in the Fifa-Caf Pan-African Schools Football Championship held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), despite losing 1-0 to Morocco in the final.
Five of the girls, Aphelele Mhlengi, Nonzuzo Buthelezi (Cape Town), Amahle Sishi, Asanda Mchunu and Olwethu Sishi, were selected to join the U17 national team.
The school’s principal, Tobias Ngubane, said the news came as a “beautifully unexpected surprise”.
“I am over the moon. We had hoped for a win but they come back with something bigger and better. I am not undermining education, but this shows that if we support pupils through their talent, we would also have lower dropout numbers in the country.
“We have a high number of dropouts because we only support pupils academically and forget to nurture their talent. It is time we teach them how their talents could go hand in hand with education rather than minimising their ambitions,” he said.
Ngubane said the pupils and teachers seemed disappointed when he announced that the team lost in the final, however, the mood changed when he mentioned that some of the girls would begin a new journey.
“The moment I announced that some of them have been chosen to join the national team, everyone forgot the first thing I said. We get the bigger picture. When one door closes, the next one opens. I still cannot believe it. We are preparing for their return and they will come home to a big feast with two cows, celebrating them.”
Before leaving for the DRC last week, coach Ntombifuthi Khumalo said they were grateful for the opportunity and were confident that they would make their province and South Africa proud.
The team had made it through to the final after beating Ethiopia 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Before their final match against Morocco at 6pm on Sunday, the team received a pep talk from Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation, Arts and Culture Nocawe Mafu and Safa president Danny Jordaan.
KZN Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu congratulated the team for its successful run in the tournament.
“We are very proud of our girls for their sterling performance in the pan-African tournament. When we sent them off, we told them to go to the tournament and enjoy themselves. Not only did they enjoy themselves, they participated all the way to the finals. We congratulate the entire team, their coach and Edendale Technical High School. They are our shining stars,” Mshengu said.
The tournament included South Africa, Morocco, Ethiopia, Senegal, Benin and the DRC. The Edendale team, comprising 17 members (15 players, a coach and a manager) are set to return on Tuesday. The team recently won the National Schools Sports Championships in the Free State.