Johannesburg - The new Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) leadership is talking a very good game.
The executive, led by the flamboyant Zimbabwe Football Association president Philip Chiyangwa, has achieved one of its main goals.
Last month they managed to extricate Cameroon’s Issa Hayatou from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) presidency, a seat he had occupied for 29 years.
Led by new CAF president Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar, it continues to talk tough and promise even more changes at the continental body.
It is eyeing two spots in the World Cup from the nine allocated to Africa under the new dispensation recently announced by new Fifa makhulubaas, Gianni Infantino.
The Swiss-Italian confirmed that Africa will get nine spots – up from five – in the enlarged Fifa World Cup of 48 countries from 2026.
Talk on Friday, after Cosafa held its meeting in Sandton, was that it will propose that each of the CAF regions must have its own play-offs, with the winners going straight through to the World Cup and the southern African region will propose that it is allocated two slots.
We have also heard talk from members such as Frans Mbidi, the president of the Namibian Football Association, that the region needs to improve its leagues, as well as the state of women’s football.
The region has come short in many aspects of the game on the continent, including regarding its performance in the different continental competitions.
Hayatou’s ties to west Africa (he was president of the Federation of Cameroon Football) and north Africa (CAF headquarters were based in Cairo, Egypt) ensured those regions got favours from him and his executive.
The fact that southern Africa only has South Africa and Zambia as Africa Cup of Nations champions, while Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns are the only two club continental champions from the region, cannot all be blamed on Hayatou.
State of its players
The region also needs to take some blame for the state of football in the area. Granted, most of the 14 presidents of the Cosafa national associations are new blood, so they might say that they are not to blame.
But, while they might not have been around when the damage was done, this is a challenge they must face head-on.
There really should be no need for players from southern Africa to go to west or north Africa in search of greener pastures.
In an interview with this newspaper two weeks ago, Mbidi stressed how important it was for the southern African region to concentrate on improving the state of its players.
As Mbidi rightfully pointed out – a point that has also been made time and again by PSL and Pirates chairperson Irvin Khoza – leagues from this region need to improve financially in such a way that players will think twice before moving to Europe.
Khoza has even gone a step further and said the PSL must get to a stage where it is able to attract European players to its ranks.
This should be the goal throughout the region.
This vibrant and energetic Cosafa brigade must ensure that the status quo – where association presidents and league bosses drive flashy cars, but some players still travel around in jalopies and others cannot even afford cars – changes for the better.
Should it improve the players’ lot, southern Africa will have strong leagues and thus be in a position to not only challenge for continental titles, but for global ones as well.
Right now, two southern African nations – South Africa and Zambia – are going to play among the best at the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in South Korea in May and June.
Let the region build from that foundation and never look back.
We are watching!
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