TWO years after he retired from mainstream administration, former FIFA development officer for Eastern and Southern Africa Ashford Mamelodi has continued to follow events in the international game and has hailed COSAFA president Philip Chiyangwa for “steadying the regional body’s ship.”
He believes the bloc is destined for growth under the stewardship of the Harare business mogul.
The Botswana-based administrator, who recently attended the COSAFA annual meeting in Johannesburg, spoke to The Herald about the game in Southern Africa, also arguing that CAF’s decision to expand the African Cup of Nations could in future compromise quality.
Question: What is your overview of football in Southern Africa at the moment?
Answer: I think progress is being made overall, albeit at a very slow pace. In general terms, structured football development from the grassroots is still far from adequate.
Q: What do you make of the African Cup of Nations maiden qualification of such teams like Madagascar? Did it come as a huge surprise to you?
A: This is great news. When the islanders won the inaugural COSAFA and the 2015 CAF Beach soccer finals in the Seychelles, consequently earning a place in the Beach Soccer World Cup Finals in Portugal, it was clear that they were making strides in football development. That they have now qualified for AFCON Men’s Finals comes as no surprise.
Q: To what extent will this serve as a motivation to other teams such as Swaziland, Lesotho, Seychelles and Mauritius?
A: I always believe when our smaller countries perform well it always serves to motivate others who still have to make the continental finals.
Q: How significant has been the COSAFA Cup in helping the likes of Madagascar, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Zambia scale the heights they have reached?
A: The COSAFA Senior Challenge and, indeed the COSAFA Under-20, have played its part over the years in not only unearthing very good talent but in contributing to help our members who have taken part in AFCON Finals. Importantly, the regional events have served as a platform for our players to shine.
Q: How has the region fared under Philip Chiyangwa?
A: It is my view that president Chiyangwa continues to write his chapter in the history of COSAFA. He has, in his short stint in the game, been able to understand the politics and all that goes with it in African football.
He has provided a steady leadership to COSAFA and continues to lead it in the right direction. Long may this continue.
Q: How important is it for the region to have more teams at the expanded AFCON in Egypt in 2019?
A: I have never really been a supporter of an expanded AFCON or World Cup. I believe in pushing development of football and qualifying for these events purely on merit, not through an expanded opportunity to qualify.
The downside of an easier qualification might lead to some of our Member Associations taking their “eyes off the ball” or “foot off the pedal”, where development of the game is concerned.