THE inaugural Mabaleka Under-18 football tournament kicks off tomorrow at Hartsfield Rugby Ground.
The new tournament was launched at Zifa House, Bulawayo, on Wednesday evening with top-four teams — Bantu Rovers, Highlanders, Chicken Inn and Emakhandeni Pirates, who play in the Zifa Bulawayo Under-18 provincial junior league — expected to battle it out in the competition.
The tournament is named after the sponsor, former Highlanders player Shepherd Mabaleka while Bheka Sibanda, Nkosi Dube and John Sibanda are the organisers.
During the launch, Zifa Bulawayo province chairman Washington Chimanda-Sithole said the tournament would help in the development of football in the region.
He said it provided big teams in the region with a platform to identify talent.
Sithole said such tournaments should be supported as they have potential to help the region regain its lost status as the cradle of Zimbabwean football.
“I would like to express my gratitude to the sponsor of this tournament,” he said.
“It is not easy to come out with something like this under such harsh economic conditions and it is impossible to dream of developing the country’s football without supporting the grassroots.
“We hope that big teams will use this opportunity to come and scout for players.”
Southern Region teams such as Highlanders, former champions and now-defunct AmaZulu and Railstars are some of the teams that have been well known for sound junior policies in the country.
The first match of the day will kick off at 9am, pitting Emakhandeni Pirates and Highlanders while the second semi-final will see 2014 Bulawayo Under-18 league champions Bantu Rovers dating Chicken Inn.
Winners in the semi-finals will lock horns for the trophy at 2pm.
Winners of the tournament will also go away with gold, while runners-up will win silver medals.
At stake will be the medal for the best referee of the tournament, trophy for player of the tournament and gloves for goalkeeper of the tournament.