Kalusha on Cosafa

The 1988 African Footballer of the Year told The Southern Times that the Cosafa Castle Cup has gradually become a continual process of longevity for the SADC teams, where players and countries annually compete to be the best. “I am very happy with the tournament and it was much better this year because the final and the semi-finals were separated. Last year the last two games were both played on the same weekend,” he said.

He is the vice-president of the Zambian Football Association and fresh from the Zambian celebrations over the 2-nil win over Angola last week. Kalusha,whose magic of the curling left foot kick betrayed him, when he missed the penalty in the 2004 Cosafa final against Angola, says his life has been full of joy, tragedy and is an everlasting fairytale.

He does not have hard feelings over the 2004 loss. “In the 20 years of my career, I have missed two penalties; one in a cup final against Club America (Mexico) and the last being the one against Angola in 2004. However, it would be unfair for anybody to judge me by that, because I have scored 23 penalties in my career.

The 5-4 loss in stomach churning penalty shoot-outs was his last game for his country.

The 43 year former captain and former coach of the Zambian national team applauded Angola for reaping the benefits of the Cosafa tournament. “Angola came from winning three cosafa championships to reaching the World Cup and, with time, more SADC teams will be competing at that stage,” he said.

The Cosafa Castle Cup celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, proving its longevity and its pre-eminent position among regional football tournaments in the world. Kalusha believes the tournament is the perfect platform to build on for 2010.

Now a member of the World Cup Organising Committee, Kalusha says he will not hesitate adding his mythical status to the Cosafa leadership – if given a chance this December. “The opportunity will come when I will say yes. Obviously there will be a need to talk to the stakeholders before I can contest for one of the Cosafa leadership positions. But I am happy with the contribution I have made to Cosafa and I will not fail were I to be given a post,” he said.

Various Cosafa leadership positions will fall vacant this December, with the main one being that of disgraced former President Ismail Bhamjee.

As the only African player to participate in six nation cup tournaments, Kalusha says the Cosafa Cup may not be recognised by FIFA at this stage. “FIFA will not put more dates on than they have now.

“Our tournament can only be played Saturdays and Sundays and the only days that FIFA can spare are Wednesdays, just like in Europe. So the situation does not favour us much, because the world programs have already been set. It’s not going to be in the near future.”

The man who built Chipolopolo after the Gabon air-crash is worried by the conditions of the stadia in Southern Africa. The Cosafa General Secretary, Ashford Mamelodi, admitted recently that lives could be at risk during the final of the Cosafa Cup at Zambia’s Independence Stadium in Lusaka. He said the same was true for many stadia in most countries in SADC.

“Our stadium was built in 1964, on Independence Day and has never been upgraded; if you go to Namibia, Swaziland or Malawi – it’s all the same. There have been complaints about the state of our main stadiums. It’s something governments have to look into before the World Cup in South Africa.

Zambia’s Independence Stadium came under heavy criticism from the southern African football governing body for its poor state of repair and was described as at near collapse. The main grandstand was closed during Saturday’s final, and Mamelodi warned that unless the improvements are made, “it is unlikely that mini-tournaments will be held there.” The stadium was shut down in 2004 by the then Sports Minister Gladys Nyirongo but the decision was reversed by her successor Gabriel Namulambe

Kalusha concurs with Mamelodi but says it’s a matter that has to be addressed on government and regional level. “Zimbabwe and South Africa are better off in that regard, but for the bulk of us, especially Zambian, the stadiums are in very poor shape and we remember that FIFA wants SADC countries to be used as base-camps in 2010.

The tourism sectors, the transport sectors and the other sectors are rallying behind this request and challenge quite well, but it’s the stadiums that could cost southern Africa a good money spinning opportunity.” He however remains optimistic that with Cosafa, the innovative premiums being brought in every year, will finally pay-off and make the difference.

The sponsors pick up transport and accommodation costs and pay the players a daily allowance. Home associations who host matches in the Cosafa Castle Cup, keep all the gate takings from their matches, thus the sponsors are ensuring that money is put back into football.

October 2006
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