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Jomo boosts local finals

Soccer legend Jomo Sono has given added incentive to the Ezemvelo Cup finalists

THIS Saturday sees a notable, if still obscure, football final being played in Richards Bay – Mbila Vultures vs Mhlana Zebras.

The legendary Jomo Sono has entered the world of conservation by agreeing to help sponsor one of the burgeoning football tournaments in South Africa, the Ezemvelo Cup, initiated by KZN’s conservation agency Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

Having flown down to Richards Bay last week to tie up agreements for this match, Sono spoke of his ‘genuine amazement’ with the tournament.

He has not only agreed to help with sponsorship money, but also threw in an exciting incentive for the winners of this final: the Vultures or the Zebras will play against his Jomo Cosmos team.

‘Its wonderful aim of popularising and branding conservation amongst rural communities has grown so much that it is even beginning to offer the national game a new reservoir of rural talent. I am amazed at this tournament’s growth,’ said Jomo.

The growth he alluded to had humble – and controversial – beginnings back in 2009 when Ezemvelo’s CEO Dr Bandile Mkhize decided to flout conventional thinking by launching both a soccer and netball tournament to bring attention to the conservation world amongst rural communities.

However logical it sounds now, starting a soccer tournament was considered beyond the formal scope or mandate of KZN’s provincial conservation agency.

But Mkhize thought otherwise, so in 2009 he asked the 10 traditional leaders surrounding KZN’s premier game reserve Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) to assemble one team from each community and call each team by the name of a wild animal.

Today, some four years later, the competition has swept all before it.

The Ezemvelo Cup is now part of a provincial fixture list.

Those original 10 teams have mushroomed into 72, with the support of 64 traditional leaders.

This year total prize money for both the soccer and netball tournaments has risen to R110 000 while sponsors have gravitated to the event – Old Mutual, Boxer Cash and Carry, Katanga and ABI being some of them.

Sono’s venture into the Ezemvelo Cup comes against a backdrop of even international attention when the three best players after last year’s finals were invited and paid to attend training camps at the Osnabruck team in Germany.

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