Petros Kausiyo  and Eddie Chikamhi
COSAFA secretary-general Sue Destombes believes Zimbabwe are poised to stage the biggest ever COSAFA Cup after the country was confirmed as the hosts of the 2019 edition of the tournament amid revelations that it could become a 16-team competition this year.

Destombes arrived in the country on Monday ahead of some marathon meetings between COSAFA, the ZIFA board led by new president Felton Kamambo and the government yesterday.

She then emerged from the meetings to tell the media she was confident of the country’s capacity to host the event.

COSAFA have set May 19 to June 1 as the dates for the senior men’s tournament whose venues are set to be confirmed in a fortnight when the paperwork between the government and the organisers is finalised.

Destombes, who was flanked at the media briefing by COSAFA president Philip Chyangwa and ZIFA chief executive Joseph Mamutse, was happy with the enthusiasm shown by the government through the Sport and Recreation Commission.

She also hailed the commitment by Kamambo’s board to make this year’s tournament a success.

“In discussion over the last couple of months as to where we wanted the 2019 COSAFA Cup to be, the president Dr Chiyangwa was determined that it is going to be in Zimbabwe because we want to make it bigger and better and that we have always held successful tournaments here,’’ he said.

“You saw the women’s tournament in Bulawayo last year which was immensely successful. Some of you may or may not know that the COSAFA 2017 was the biggest tournament and is now the biggest women’s tournament on the continent of Africa.

“We had 12 participating teams, which is bigger than the continental women’s championship itself and look at what a tournament it was.

“We had a full house at Barbourfields Stadium. It was a crowd that I think can be compared to that of the Champions League match between FC Platinum and Orlando Pirates.

“So we want to do the same again when the COSAFA Cup comes to Zimbabwe this year. We had a very good meeting with the Sports and Recreation Commission today. They had a preliminary discussion with the Minister (Kirsty Coventry).

“There is just some paperwork that needs to be finished so that it can be sent back to the Minister but we are very confident that the tournament will be played in Zimbabwe from May 19 to June 1.’’

She said this year’s tournament was strategic.

“That is a very strategic time for the COSAFA tournament bearing in mind that the AFCON tournament starts on June 15.

“So it will be a two-week window between the end of the COSAFA Cup and the beginning of AFCON and we certainly hope that we have got several teams from the COSAFA region that have already qualify and will qualify in the last match to be played in March so that we have got a good offering to send to Egypt.’’

She said the tournament was not only about football.

“For any country, as a Government, one thing they can always take from hosting a tournament of this magnitude is good PR,’’ said Destombes.

“I think it showcases the country, it gives an opportunity for the foreign media to come and cover the tournament and to see and experience for themselves and the country ends up with good exposure.

“While the teams are here, maybe, they get an opportunity to experience some tourist sites so, hopefully, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority will also come on board as a strategic partner to facilitate that.

“Whether we play in Harare or in Bulawayo they have the stadia that can support the tournament. They have got the necessary infrastructure in terms of training grounds, hotel accommodation, transportation and it’s a football-loving nation.’’

Source : The Herald

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