Zimbabwe: Cosafa Cup Ideal Rehearsal for Afcon

Zimbabwe celebrate after their dramatic victory over Zambia in the 2018 Cosafa Cup final (file photo).
opinion

The 13th edition of the Cosafa Cup is coming to Zimbabwe from May 19 to June 1, so they say.

Should that become a reality, this could turn out to be the biggest if not the best ever Cosafa Cup both on the field of play and in crowd attendance since the day the competition was introduced way back in April 1997.

Coming just two weeks before the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) roars into life in Egypt, the Cosafa Cup is likely to serve as the final preparatory ground for the southern African teams who would be making the journey to North Africa for the continental finals.

Madagascar have already qualified for Egypt 2019 and chances are high that the Warriors of Zimbabwe, the Antelopes of Angola, and South Africa's Bafana Bafana could join them after perennial campaigners, Zambia's Chipolopolo, fell by the wayside.

However, Chipolopolo, winners of the Nations Cup in 2012 and losing finalists in 1994, would be going all flat out to make amends for their 2019 Nations Cup failure by winning the Cosafa Cup or at least by reaching the final as has been the case in the past two editions.

The appearance of Madagascar too could also be an attraction. The Islanders entertained purists with an attractive brand of short passing football and were the first team to qualify for the 2019 Afcon finals and for that matter from a group that included Senegal, Equatorial Guinea and Sudan.

Instead of the traditional Cosafa Cup giants South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Madagascar will surely be the team to beat as they have made huge strides in African football and were unfortunate not to have been crowned Africa's Team of the Year for 2018, losing out to Mauritania.

Not forgetting southern Africa's international football stars scattered all over the globe. With Afcon now coming at a time when the European club season would be on a break, those stars would surely be coming to Zimbabwe to help their teams win the regional tournament as well as fine tune themselves for the Nations Cup.

It is a fact that Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiart, Marvelous Nakamba and Tendayi Darikwa would be on parade in the famous Zimbabwe colours at the Cosafa Cup should the Warriors -- as expected -- qualify for the 2019 Afcon extravaganza.

The organisers of the Cosafa Cup should be complimented for working flat out to make the Zimbabweans dream a reality. What is even more heartening are the efforts of the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) despite the "assumed or created" bad relationship between Zifa president Felton Kamambo and Cosafa boss Phillip Chiyangwa.

The two parties met during the course of the week gone by to map the way forward for another Zimbabwe Cosafa Cup, which is coming at home 10 years after the last one which the Warriors won courtesy of a 3-1 victory over Zambia at Rufaro Stadium.

The organisers -- through their secretary-general Sue Destombes -- have promised a good show, pledging that the competition would this year have more than the traditional 14 teams and also include teams from other regions who have a proven African football history.

However, the success of a football tournament is not measured by performance on the field of play or its organisation, but crowd attendance. The past two editions in South Africa were marked by poor attendances and the whole of Africa would be watching as to what the Zimbabwean situation would be.

The truth is that if the organisers are to make the Zimbabwean Cosafa Cup a success, then they should make the matches affordable. Instead of the $5 some have been charging for the cheapest seat for international matches, Cosafa should go for something modest.

Zimbabweans love their football. The cheaper the tickets, the more they would flock to stadiums to watch not only the Warriors, but other teams as well.

Something around $2 would be ideal for a tournament that is most likely to attract the ordinary football fan not only from Zimbabwe, but from the region.

Such a modest gate charge would be the only way to make the 2019 Cosafa Cup a tournament to remember for years to come. So let the Zimbabwe Cosafa Cup dream be a reality.

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