The Cosafa Cup traditionally gets a bad rap from South African football fans‚ in part through naked arrogance and in part a lack of understanding of why the tournament exists and what its mandate is. There are many supporters of Bafana Bafana who feel that playing Mauritius‚ Lesotho or even Botswana is “beneath them”‚ and of no interest or value for the national side.
That being the top dog in the Southern African region is not important. That is where the arrogance comes in. But in truth the Cosafa Cup has never been about the trophy at the end of the tournament.
It is nice to have‚ and a goal for all teams to strive towards‚ but the tournament was set up to help develop football in the region and in this regard there can be no argument that it has been a success.
Let’s take Lesotho as an example.
Setting up friendly matches is financially tough for the tiny Mountain Kingdom and in years where there are no qualifiers for the African Cup of Nations or the FIFA World Cup‚ the team battles to play more than two or three fixtures in a calendar year.
But the Cosafa Cup gives them a minimum of two games‚ but more likely three‚ and as many as six games in which to develop their national team and prepare them for these qualification games.
The Cosafa region will have five teams at the AFCON finals this year — a number helped by the expansion of the finals from 16 to 24 teams — while Lesotho and Mozambique came close to joining them.
It is no coincidence that the level of Southern African teams‚ and their competitiveness on the continent‚ has improved since the Cosafa Cup has been played regularly again in the last five years.
A team like Namibia has had an additional 15 internationals over that period‚ plus all the additional time in camp before and during the tournaments‚ and here they are now off to the Afcon finals.