It’s more than humiliating for the defending champions of AFCON to be eliminated in the first round. Zambia got a shock of their life when they were bungled out of the tournament after a goal less draw with Burkina Faso when they desperately needed a win to progress to the next round. This has left the Southern African region with only one team in contention.
That is the host, South Africa. As the last team standing one wishes them all the best. However, an introspection of this region – Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) – remains a priority. What is it that we are doing wrong or not doing at all? Zambia’s title victory last year came after many years since South Africa won the title in 1996. And now it has fizzled away; almost like it was not deserved.
We have to look at our development structures in the region and the quality of our leagues. Are we doing enough? This outcome certainly demonstrates that we are far off the mark. We must change. We have to bring back the regional COSAFA cup, which is played for by senior national teams. A deliberate youth teams league should be introduced.
And we have to work on our attitude, somehow fortify and consolidate the mental strength. Countries like Botswana that made their maiden appearance last year have a long way to go in this area. This region is endowed with sufficient infrastructure to nurture and grow the talent at its disposal. We must take advantage of all and build synergies that will see countries boosting performance of one another.
Meanwhile, this does not take anything away from the high quality competition in the tournament now. As the tournament enters the knockout stage more excitement is in store. There will be more drama and heartache. May the best team win!