After the Cosafa bandwagon

The Cosafa Castle Cup is not your ordinary type of football competition.

It comes as a full package, something like a reality television show, and paints the entire town into red and white.

From South Africa comes a team of television cameramen, technicians, commentators and analysts.

Then there is also a team of the organisers of the tournament and a representative of the sponsors.

It is usually a high-powered delegation and veteran football writer and commentator Mark Gleeson ‘ considered the doyen of African soccer journalists ‘ has been a regular member of the delegation.

Gleeson has turned into a useful resource person who helps the local journalists with some of the finer details of the competition.

He is always ready to give a helping hand ‘ as he did two Fridays ago at the media conference in Harare ‘ when he clarified that the Cosafa Castle Cup is a tournament that is recognised by Fifa.

Apparently one local journalist had suggested that the tournament is not recognised by the world football governing body.

Ponga Liwewe, the veteran Zambian football journalist, has also been a regular member of the Cosafa Castle Cup road show.

But he was conspicuous by his absence in Harare last week because of commitments in Nigeria.

SuperSport presenters, though, were not in short supply.

Thomas Mlambo, the smooth-talking SuperSport 3 anchor who has made a huge impact across the continent, was part of the bandwagon in Harare.

Mlambo has won a number of awards of excellence for his fine presentation and was accompanied on the Harare tour by fellow presenter Thomas Kwenaite.

Affectionately known as TeeKay, Kwenaite is an award-winning football journalist who is widely respected across the continent.

He briefly spoke about his love for the Zimbabwe Warriors and how he wished them well in their showdown against Angola.

But he was quick to emphasise that, as a neutral observer, he would be happy if the better team on the day won the big match.

For the local journalists, their meeting with Mlambo and Kwenaite was a golden opportunity for them to share ideas on their profession.

It’s easy for you to see that the Cosafa Castle Cup road show has hit town ‘ they paint the hotel where they will be staying with the Castle Lager colours.

Now and again a shuttle bus, full of the technicians and engineers, leaves the hotel for the stadium ‘ where the match would be played ‘ for them to set up their equipment.

The highlight before the match is usually the media conference.

This time it was held on a Friday to try and accommodate the Angolans who arrived on the same day.

Sadly, the Angolans said they were too tired to share the stage with their Zimbabwean counterparts during the media conference.

It meant that ‘ for about an hour ‘ the focus was all on the Warriors’ caretaker coaches David Mandigora and Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo.

Some of the questions were brilliant, others were ordinary while some were downright stupid.

The media room was full and a rough head count revealed that there might have been about 50 journalists ‘ something that is not a true reflection of the size of the local football writing fraternity.

Gleeson noticed it and said he was surprised with the sudden growth in numbers of the Zimbabwe football writing family.

Well, the truth was that this was by no means a gathering of reporters but a number of local supporters had found their way into the room disguised as media personnel.

Such was the madness that one of the questions came from a driver who was driving the shuttle bus that was being used by the Cosafa Castle Cup technicians.

It’s one of the sickening things about football in Zimbabwe where the media conferences are always hijacked by supporters who have perfected a way of entering the conference halls.

The problem is that when it comes to the distribution of media kit, it turns into a free-for-all stampede with genuine reporters losing out while some fans go home with the books containing statistics and some relevant information.

There was also a stampede for food with the fans, who were disguised as journalists, in the thick of things as the whole show turned into a circus.

“I think the tragedy is that we, the journalists, have left ourselves open for abuse by these supporters since we have seemingly accepted this silly thing for a long time.

“Next time I believe that we should take a firm stance and ask the police to weed these people out before we can conduct our business,” said one journalist.

But far away from the madding media crowd, life had to go on.

You could see the changes on the streets of Harare on Saturday as there was a sudden increase in the number of people wearing Cosafa Castle Cup caps and T-shirts.

And on match day the Cosafa Castle Cup organisers gave the National Sports Stadium a new look by painting it in the colours of the sponsors.

For the local football administrators this was the time for them to go back to school as they were given free lessons of the power of branding.

All the other adverts that have nothing to do with the Cosafa Castle Cup disappeared from the National Sports Stadium.

Ironically, the local administrators have been fighting the local town councils, who own the stadiums, as to who should get proceeds from touchline advertising.

The match itself was a close affair and Angola won on the back of their superior fitness and their ability to convert the chances they created.

By Monday, Harare was coming back to life in the normal lane as the Cosafa Castle Cup bandwagon retreated to its base in South Africa.

Soon it will be back on the road ‘ this time to Zambia and, for about four days, Lusaka will have to deal with the magic that comes with this road show.

September 2006
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