Cosafa president explains why the regional tournament keeps coming back to SA

Flamboyant tycoon Phillip   Chiyangwa in one of his posh cars in Harare. Circa January 2012. © Sunday Times.
Flamboyant tycoon Phillip Chiyangwa in one of his posh cars in Harare. Circa January 2012. © Sunday Times.

Seychelles and Mauritius might have to be content with hosting beach soccer and women’s competitions for now while Southern Africa’s most prestigious tournament‚ the Cosafa Cup‚ continues to rotate among the region’s bigger countries.

From what Cosafa president Phillip Chiyangwa is saying‚ the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations currently does not view smaller countries among it’s 14 member nations - Madagascar‚ Comoros and perhaps even Swaziland and Malawi - as worthy or capable of hosting their headline competition.

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Chiyangwa was plain-spoken in his assessment of why – since the Cosafa Cup took on a tournament format hosted by a single country in 2008 – it has been staged three times by South Africa‚ with Zimbabwe‚ Angola‚ Zambia and Namibia hosting one each.

“Seychelles and Mauritius – all the (tournaments) that you see awarded are based on people bidding‚ that we want to participate in this‚” Chiyangwa‚ who ousted Suketu Patel of Seychelles as Cosafa president at the body’s congress at Sun City in December‚ said.

“You can’t just be given a competition when you don’t even have a stadium.

“They are asking to be given beach soccer and women’s competitions – I know that Seychelles are taking a women’s competition.

“There are things that they can do successfully.

"Remember‚ people must go to a country where they have to stay nicely and so forth‚ and all those are considerations before granting a competition.”

Astonishingly‚ Chiyangwa revealed that the 2017 Cosafa Women’s Championship to be hosted by his association‚ Zimbabwe‚ was awarded by a telephone call between himself and Patel.

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Asked if smaller countries do put in bids to host the Cosafa Cup‚ Chiyangwa replied: “They ask for certain competitions.

“For instance I (Zimbabwe) was given the senior women’s competition in September. Why?

"Because it has happened there successfully in 2011 (and 2015).

“And Patel on his own made that decision and phoned me and asked me if I wanted to accept that.

“And I said‚ ‘OK‚ let’s do it’. So we’re doing it.”

Chiyangwa said any country bidding for a Cosafa Cup stands a fair chance.

“Oh yes. Any country embarking on an investment – just like what Zambia has done – deserves to be given some support and competitions‚” he said.

The president’s assessment that small countries like Mauritius and Seychelles‚ who have economies based on tourism‚ might not have the infrastructure‚ is surprising.

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The Cosafa Cup‚ being held in Rustenburg in June and July this year for the second time‚ usually requires just two stadium venues‚ and these are rarely filled.

As for why South Africa hosts the event every two to three years‚ Chiyangwa was vague and suggested sponsorship issues – the Cosafa Cup is sponsored by Castle Lager – played a role.

“Administratively‚ the person in the office will say‚ 'I have these competitions'.

"Cosafa does not just operate on its own‚ or make a decision on its own‚” the president said.

“We’ve got a company that is contracted to carry out marketing and sponsorship bills.

"It is paid as a commission for that.

“That’s the company that comes back to us and says‚ ‘That client of ours is still keen to carry on’.

“And for instance‚ if there is no client‚ or no suitor‚ or bidder‚ or sponsor‚ where do we go then?

“Because we need to pay these countries who compete (in the Cosafa Cup) – if they win they get a pay cheque.”

The 2008 Cosafa Cup was held in Mpumalanga. - TMG Digital/TMG Sport