Can Cosafa Cup regain prominence?

By Mark GleesonBBC Sport
Namibia win the 2015 Cosafa Cup
Namibia won the 2015 Cosafa Cup

The return of their long-standing sponsor means southern African teams have the guarantee of added international competition for the next five years as they seek to return the Cosafa Cup to its previous prominence.

The regional competition was the catalyst for previous success for national teams as it offered extra competitive matches for cash-strapped associations in the region by paying all their expenses and offering them prize money.

But after Castle Lager, which financed the annual event, pulled out in 2007, the annual southern African championship floundered and even had to be scrapped for several years because of the lack of a sponsor.

Now its immediate future has been secured by a new deal with the beer-producing company, although the financial details were not revealed - and Namibia will host the 2016 tournament, organisers said at a launch in Windhoek.

Cosafa Cup winners
2015 - Namibia2014 - Zambia
2013 - 2010 no tournaments2009 - Zimbabwe
2008 - South Africa2007 - South Africa
2006 - Zambia2005 - Zimbabwe
2004 - Angola2003 - Zimbabwe
2002 - South Africa 2001 - Angola
2000 - Zimbabwe1999 - Angola
1998 - Zambia1997 - Zambia

The tournament was at its peak from 1997 to 2005 when all expenses of the teams were paid plus they earned lucrative prize money.

Coaches claimed countries benefitted greatly from forum particularly when they then competed in the qualifying competitions for the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup. Added matches allowed them to not only hone the players' skills at a top level but also gave many teams much-needed confidence.

For the last two years, the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations have managed to obtain limited sponsorship and government backing to stage the tournament in Zambia and South Africa.

Next year the finals will be staged from 15-29 May and hosted at the Sam Nujoma Stadium and Independence Stadium. Both are in Windhoek but on opposite sides of the city.

The dates for the tournament have been strategically chosen to ensure practice for countries who will be playing vital Nations Cup in June, said Cosafa general secretary Sue Destombes.

Cosafa is to keep the same format which means countries ranked 7-14 in the region play in a first round group competition. They are divided into two group of four teams each and only winner advances onto the knockout stage where they are joined by the top six ranked countries.

A plate competition is also held for quarter-final stage losers which guarantees each participating country gets to play in at least two matches.

Last year Angola and the Comoros Islands, did not compete - which saw outsiders Ghana and Tanzania invited instead - but Cosafa is expecting a full house next year, Destombes added.

The 14 Cosafa members are Angola, Botswana, Comoros Islands, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, the Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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