COPA graduate shares importance of school tournament
Khulekhani Kubheka, a 19- year old COPA Coca-Cola graduate from KZN says he will forever be grateful for the opportunity awarded through the U15 tournament. This is after showcasing his talent in 2014 through the COPA Coca-Cola that is currently underway for its 9th consecutive year in South Africa.
Reflecting on his football journey that first saw him start off as a central defender to now being the country’s most trusted shot-stopper at junior level. Kubheka believes tournaments like COPA Coca-Cola contribute to talent identification through the system of different schools from the across the country competing against each other. The promising keeper played for Pretoria’s Clapham High School as a 14-year-old back in 2013 and featured again in the tournament in 2014 where his school went on to win the tournament at the King Zwelithini Stadium in Durban.
“A lot of my peers and I played football at school but playing in the COPA Coca-Cola tournament took us out of our comfort zone because we had to compete against really good schools from other provinces in the country. This helped us improve our game from a very young age and thanks to Coca-Cola we were prepared for what was to be a life changing experience” says Kubheka.
Kubheka further explains “When I think of the day we won the tournament, to my surprise, we played in front of a huge crowd at the King Zwelithini Stadium. It was overwhelming as a teen because that made me realise how much I wanted to be a footballer and that maybe I was at the right place at the right time to achieve my dream.”
The KwaZulu-Natal-born COPA Coca-Cola star was part of coach Thabo Senong’s squad that went to last year’s U20 World Cup. In this team there was his fellow 2014 COPA Coca-Cola graduate, Malebogo Modise who is Kubheka’s club teammate at Sundowns and a regular feature in the U20 national team. Graduating from the COPA Coca-Cola tournament, the 19-year-old keeper now leads the South African U20 national team as the captain with the huge task of guiding and helping his nation book a place in this year’s U20 Africa Cup of Nations. Ultimately the team went to the FIFA U20 World Cup – a tournament that any player in the world dreams of being part of.
However, Kubheka’s World Cup experience did not start with the U17 world showpiece he attended in Chile with the then SA U17 squad. The Amajita skipper travelled to Brazil during the 2014 World Cup as part of the four players that were selected during the 2014 COPA Coca-Cola tournament that represented South Africa at the COPA Coca-Cola International Camp in Brazil which coincided with the 2014 World Cup.
“I will never forget how much we learnt as we were trained by knowledgeable and professional coaches. We were taught important life lessons which I am still applying in my personal and professional life. The experience helped me create new relationships and understand different cultures. For instance, at national team level, we have limited time to get to know one another and because I had engaged with different people through COPA Coca-Cola I was able to understand different cultures, quickly adapt to different personalities and helped a lot when I was playing because the lessons from COPA placed me ahead in how I relate to people and the game of football.”
In addition to this year’s edition, a COPA Coca-Cola Future Stars squad will be assembled by tournament ambassador, Jabu “Shuffle” Mahlangu and a team of selectors where they will be afforded a professional football experience at the High-Performance Centre in Pretoria. The COPA Coca-Cola Future Stars squad will comprise of players from each of the nine provincial play offs.
The next generation of footballers will be unveiled in this year’s edition as the COPA Coca-Cola Provincial Play Offs travel to all nine provinces in search of more talented players such as SA U20 captain, Malebogo Modise, Andile Jali, and Happy Jele who all were discovered from the Coca-Cola sponsored tournament.
2018 COPA Coca-Cola Provincial Play Off Dates:
DATE PROVINCE VENUE
02 June Eastern Cape Thandanani Stadium
21 July Northern Cape Robert Gunda Stadium
28 July Western Cape TBC
4 August Gauteng Moletsane Sports Complex
11 August North West Ikageng Stadium
18 August KwaZulu-Natal King Zwelithini Stadium
25 August Free State Bohlokong Stadium
1 September Limpopo Malamulele Stadium
8 September Mpumalanga Lynville Stadium
26–29 September Eastern Cape Wolfson Stadium
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