A collision of leagues

Zimbabwe and Angola will field players drawn exclusively from their domestic leagues when they clash in a Cosafa Castle Cup semi-final.

The winner of the match will meet Zambia in the final for the right to be called the champions of Southern Africa.

It’s probably the first time that both teams have met in a contest that features players exclusively drawn from their domestic leagues.

And while no one will probably say it, the league chiefs in both countries are fighting a secret battle.

Ever since Zambian international midfielder Ian Bakala moved from Zimbabwean champions CAPS United to Angola at the beginning of last season, the stage was set for the undeclared war between the countries’ two leagues.

Bakala claimed that he was moving to Angola because it was a better league than the one in Zimbabwe where he was voted the second best player after helping CAPS win the championship in 2004.

The statement ruffled many feathers within the Zimbabwean Premiership with a number of voices criticising Bakala.

Debate has raged on since then as to which league is stronger.

There is no doubt that the Angolan league is richer while the one in Zimbabwe is battling to secure a sponsor.

But the richest leagues are not necessarily the strongest leagues.

Despite its lack of financial backing, the Zimbabwean Premiership has attracted a number of players from Malawi and Zambia.

Sadly, clubs from both leagues have failed to make a huge impact in the inter-club continental tournaments in recent years.

Angolan club AS Aviacao sensationally lost to the Bethlehem Boys of Namibia in what was one of the biggest upsets in the African Champions League this year.

Zimbabwe champions CAPS were expelled from the Champions League this year, after bravely restricting Raja Casablanca of Morocco to a 1-0 lead in the first leg, after the Confederation of African Football (Caf) ruled that they had violated regulations governing the tournament.

Angolan and Zimbabwean clubs have rarely met in African competitions but the clash of the best players drawn from the two leagues could give us an indication of which league is stronger.

September 2006
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