Southern African football development may be dealt a crushing blow if the organisers of the Cosafa Cup tournament do not raise sufficient funds to stage it in two months’ time.
The tournament, which was won by hosts Zambia last year after defeating Zimbabwe 2-0, is seen as the ideal platform for locally-based fringe players to be prepare for senior national call-ups.
A well-placed source has informed The New Age that Cosafa officials are under intense pressure to raise funds for the tournament, which was moved from July to September due to the World Cup.
“They are working very hard behind the scenes to prevent an embarrassing situation were the tournament to be called off.
Last year’s edition was a huge success in Zambia and it is important for the sake of continuity, football development and the pride of our region, the source said.
Former Bafana Bafana winger Helman Mkhalele said it would be a massive blow for the game’s development in the region if the tournament was called off – but at the same time added that sponsors need to demand a full return on their investment.
“As much as it would be a big blow for development, we can’t blame the sponsors, especially here in South Africa, because we take unknown players to the tournament.
“We need to rethink this tournament because it does not fall in Fifa’s open window and clubs are always reluctant to release their key players,” he said.
Before last year’s edition, the tournament did not take place for three consecutive years in a move that saw many talented young players, who were on the fringes of their national teams, denied the opportunity to showcase their skills.
At the completion of last year’s edition, Zambia’s midfielder Mukuka Mulenga – who was named the tournament’s most valuable player – was signed by Mamelodi Sundowns. He is yet to make an impact for the Brazilians due to injury.
From the South African point of view, the tournament offered outgoing Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund – who had to deal with countless player withdrawals ahead of the Lusaka trip – the chance to assess fringe players such as Tshepo Gumede, Thulani Hlatshwayo and Lebogang Manyama.
While doubts remain over the tournament, the 40th edition of the popular Cecafa Kagame Cup championship for East and Central African countries has been confirmed for Ethiopia next month.
Elsewhere on the continent, the Wafu Nations Cup is lined up for November as the West African countries look to depose defending champions Ghana.
Source : www.thenewage.co.za