World Cup ticket scam hits region

The new deal could not have come at a better time for the Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) family still reeling from the departure of its long-serving leader Ismail Bhamjee and stunning allegations that there could have been more players from this region on the World Cup ticket gravy train.

The Cosafa leadership and giant brewers SAB Miller signed an extension to the contract that should keep the tournament alive until, at least, 2011.

The nature of Bhamjee’s exit ‘ especially against the background of the problems that he faced after being involved in a scandal involving the sale of World Cup tickets in Germany ‘ had cast a shadow on the regional organisation.

Stunning revelations last week that Cosafa heavyweight ‘ Zimbabwe ‘ could have been involved in a shadowy trade of World Cup tickets in Germany did not help the image of the region either.

The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) board in Harare has launched its own investigations into the case with focus zoomed on how World Cup tickets allocated to the association were sold on the black market in Germany.

There have been calls, too, for all the football associations within the region to publicise their transactions related to the sale of World Cup tickets that they received from Fifa for the Germany World Cup.

The Malawi Football Association has already publicised an audited account of its financial transactions related to the tickets and part of their profits were used for national team expenses.

“I think it is only proper for all our associations to come out in the open and show the world that our football administrators did not jump on the ticket gravy train at the World Cup finals in Germany and reaped huge financial benefits for themselves,” said Felix Sapao, a Malawian football agent.

Sapao, who is also a Blantyre businessman, owns the Aqua sporting brand that the Malawian national team ‘ The Flames ‘ are using for their international assignments.

“I believe that Southern Africa has a responsibility to convince the world that it has principled football administrators whom the globe can invest its trust in for the 2010 World Cup finals.

“That is why it is key that we show the world that we did not get involved in the ticket scandals that might have rocked the World Cup and everyone should trust us that in four years’ time the World Cup will be in very safe hands.

“But the challenge is on the administrators themselves to publicise whatever happened with their World Cup tickets, how they were sold and what they got out of the sales.

“It’s good that Zimbabwe has taken the first steps to establish what happened and now the other nations in the region should follow suit.”

But it’s not all gloom and doom for the vibrant Cosafa family right now despite the challenges that it is facing. The new deal between Cosafa and SAB Miller should breathe life into the organisation as it embarks on a new journey following Bhamjee’s departure.

“Cosafa and SAB Miller have extended until 2011 their sponsorship agreement for the Cosafa Castle Cup,” read a statement posted on the organisation’s official website www.cosafa.com.

“The annual southern African championship, now competed for by 13 teams, is in its 10th edition but the new deal will take (it) to a total of 15 years.

“The tournament was launched in 1997 and has gone on to become recognised as the best of its kind in world football.”

From humble beginnings in 1997, when the initial attempt to stage the tournament ran into problems with world football governing body Fifa, the Cosafa Castle Cup has grown into a colossus.

Interest, too, has risen among the spectators and there was a huge crowd in Lusaka last week for the Cosafa Castle Cup semi-final between Zambia and Botswana.

The Zebras of Botswana ‘ the only lightweight left in the competition ‘ gave a good account of themselves before falling 0-1 in a tight match.

Substitute Given Singuluma fired home to break the Zebras’ hearts and take Zambia into yet another final of the Cosafa Castle Cup.

It will be the third straight final for Chipolopolo who have, however, not won the tournament since they triumphed in Zimbabwe in 1998. There could be a repeat showdown between Zambia and Zimbabwe if the Warriors beat Angola at home in the other semi-final.

The Zebras of Botswana reached the last four of the competition for the first time and went back home thinking of what might have been.

Striker Tshepiso Molwantwa fired a thunderous drive against the upright in the first half and had that chance gone in, then it could have been an entirely different story for the Zebras.

Still they have a right to hold their heads high after a fine run in which they ousted Bafana Bafana and proved that they have made huge strides over the past year.

August 2006
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