Registration for the 2015 Kay Motsepe Schools Cup has closed and Harmony High School of Virginia, the 2014 Free State champions and the most successful school in the tournament over the past five years, are hard at work preparing for their opening cluster level matches, and determined to represent the province at the national finals once again this year.
Harmony coach, Pitso Mokoena, has been with the school since 2008 and has guided them to two national titles – in 2008 and 2011. He sees that 2008 victory as his greatest achievement. He didn’t have a lot of time to prepare that year and injuries meant that they played in the national finals with just 12 players in the squad.
“Winning the 2011 Kay Motsepe Schools Cup was easier” he said. “I think that the 2011 team was the best team I have coached. They were talented and they made my job very easy.”
This year Harmony will play with a completely new team. The entire under-17 team that won a key knockout tournament in 2014 and also participated in the SAB Regional League has been promoted and they will join seven of last year’s under-19 players.
“All are currently training together, but we will select the best players for the Kay Motsepe Schools Cup and it does not necessarily have to include last year’s players,” he said.
“We also compete in open tournaments and leagues to give the players experience with teams other than schools as they grow and learn this way.”
In the cluster phase of the Kay Motsepe Schools Cup, the team will be playing against local schools, but Mokoena said they will not underestimate them. “Every year teams grow, they have new talented players and there’s no guarantee that Harmony will win every year.
“But we try to be optimistic,” he said. “We have always represented Free State in this tournament and we know that other schools in Free Sate are gunning for the title and are working hard to make sure that they get that title. We don’t take competition lightly. Local rivals HTS Louis Botha are a very strong team and they are the team that could well give us a challenge. In 2013 they took the provincial title away from us for the first time and they will be a threat again this year.”
Mokoena’s coaching philosophy is based on hard work and a good relationship with his players. “Soccer is an ever-evolving sport and as a coach you need to develop your skills by attending coaching clinics, getting more qualifications and equipping yourself with what’s current,” he says.
“You also have to be a father figure to the players. You need to build and maintain relationships with all your players. You need to be open to being a father/mentor to them, so that they can be open to you in return.”
For Mokoena the biggest challenge is having to deal with the players’ attitudes. “You sometimes have players that think that they are the best thing that has happened to the team; they tend to be egotistical. As a coach you need to be able to bring down those egos. I try to make it a team problem which needs to be resolved as a team.”
As for his own future, Mokoena believes the next step is coaching PSL teams. “I look up to the likes of Rulani Mokoena (former coach of Mamelodi Sundowns Academy), who started with the junior team and is now the assistant coach for Mamelodi Sundowns first team. That’s my next step, I want to start with a developing team in the PSL and take it to greater heights. I give myself about three years to reach that level.”