Football festivals for Bots, Nam
Harare – From the historic World Cup in 2010 to the Nations Cup and right down to the Cosafa Cup, the rest of Southern Africa has watched from a distance as the three regional football heavyweights – South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia – monopolised the hosting of these tournaments.
But for two months this year, in September and October, Botswana and Namibia will claim a slice of their rights to host major football festivals when the 2014 Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup and the 2014 African Women Championships are held in those two countries.
Botswana will host the 2014 Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup between September 13 and 28, the first time that the country will be hosting the full tourney, which has been described by Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, as the best football regional tournament in the world.
The Botswana capital, Gaborone, has hosted Cosafa Cup matches before but on both occasions in 2006 and 2007, only one group games were held in that country at a time when the Cosafa leadership favoured spreading the hosting responsibilities across a number of countries.
Eight years ago, Botswana football fans were able to see the Group B matches of the 2006 Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup in Gaborone where the Zebras hosted South Africa, Swaziland and Madagascar and, riding on home support, won the group, after beating Bafana Bafana 6-5 on penalties, to advance to the semi-finals.
There they met Zambia, in Lusaka, and were knocked out but not before a brave show in which they came close to upsetting their hosts.
The following year, Botswana were again given the rights to host Group C of the 2007 Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup and they battled Angola, Lesotho and Namibia and, just like in the previous year, also won the group after beating the Angolans on penalties.
Zimbabwe hosted the full 2009 Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup final, with the Warriors winning the tournament on home soil, and after a four year absence, the tourney returned and was hosted by Zambia who also went on to become champions.
Now, the baton has been passed to Botswana who will be under pressure to follow in the footsteps of Zimbabwe and Zambia by using home advantage to win the tourney.
Cosafa organisers have set this weekend as the deadline for countries to confirm their participation in the tournament.
The Harambee Stars of Kenya were guests at last year’s tournament in Zambia and the Cosafa leadership says they are in talks with a number of countries to pick the nation that will be their guests this year.
Nine Southern African countries, including holders Zambia and the team they beat in the final last year, Zimbabwe, have already confirmed their participation at the 2014 Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup in Botswana this year.
“With the deadline for response set for April 25, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Malawi, Seychelles, Lesotho and Swaziland have all confirmed they will participate,” Cosafa said on their official website.
“Defending champions Zambia and Mozambique are the latest sides to confirm their participation.
“Only the island nations of Comoros and Mauritius have yet to put their names forward, along with Angola, who are expected to make a decision in the coming days.” Cosafa chief executive Sue Destombes said everything was going according to plan in terms of the provision of confirmations for teams to take part in the 2014 Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup final.
“Many of our general secretaries from the various Cosafa countries were in South Africa at the Fifa seminar that was held recently and so have not been in their own offices to deal with such issues,” Destombes said and revealed that there could be a guest nation at the tourney.
“That is why we have made the deadline for countries to confirm their participation so early in the year because it does then give us time to engage with others from outside Cosafa and give them adequate time to make a decision.
Two weeks after the Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup in Botswana, neighbours Namibia will be hosting another major football jamboree when the 2014 African Women Championships are held in the country.
Namibia, as hosts, were given a bye from the qualifying tournament, which drew a record number of entrants, demonstrating once again the growing power of women football on the continent, with 25 nations joining the bandwagon to try and book a place at tournament.
Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and South Africa were given a bye from the first round of the qualifying tournament but now have to earn their place at the tourney with Banyana Banyana taking on Comoros, in a qualifier they are expected to win, while Zimbabwe date neighbours Zambia in what is expected to be an explosive tie.
Three top teams at the 2014 African Women Championships in Namibia will qualify for the 2015 Fifa Women World Cup and Safa desperately want Banyana Banyana to qualify, against a backdrop of poor performances by Bafana Bafana, they have invested in 51-year-old Dutchwoman Vera Pauw as coach of the South African women’s national football team.
Pauw, a former coach of the Dutch women national football team, arrived in South Africa with a wealth of experience having also worked as technical director in Russia.
Banyana Banyana and the Mighty Warriors played in a friendly international in Johannesburg recently, to prepare for the final round of qualifiers in the battle to win a ticket to Namibia, and produced a thriller that ended in a 2-2 draw with the South Africans coming back from two goals down to force a draw. Five other nations to join Namibia, South Africa/Comoros, Zambia/Zimbabwe at the 2014 African Women Championships will be known on June 8 and will come from the remaining contenders – Algeria/Tunisia, Ethiopia/Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire/Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda/Nigeria and Senegal/Cameroon.