A Mournful SADC Performance

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Carlos Kambaekwa It never rains but only pours for Southern African football courtesy of a great lack of visionary leaders in our football setup – remember the old adage: what goes around comes around!!. It’s quite disappointing to notice some kind of back-stabbing amongst members of the Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) during the concluded Congress of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in Cairo, last week. The region lost its seat on the powerful FIFA Executive after long serving member Ismail Bhamjee was voted off the Committee after eight years. The internationally respected Bhamjee, who is also President of the Southern African Football Associations, found himself at the wrong end of the stick with a paltry 15 votes against Molefi Oliphant’s 19, but the SAFA boss retained his CAF Vice-Presidency unopposed following a recommendation by the Confederation’s President Issa Hayatou. The four-man race saw Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Ivory Coast’s Jacques Anouma voted on to the FIFA Executive with 36 and 31 votes respectively from the 51 voting countries. The question that boggles the mind is – why did COSAFA members allow themselves to split their votes on a lost cause instead of rallying behind one candidate only ? Apparently, the influential President of the South African Football Association Molefi Oliphant reneged on an earlier undertaking not to challenge the globe-trotting Bhamjee for the powerful seat, but the brother became “lang oog” after coming out unscathed for the CAF Vice-Presidency. Logic suggests African football, in particular the COSAFA region, needs to get its house in order while the FIFA President Joseph Blatter is fighting tooth and nail for the continent to be given more representation at the World Cup. In the meantime, the lukewarm performance of countries representing the Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) at the 25th edition of the African Cup of Nations finals underway in Egypt leaves quite a lot to be desired. All four nations Angola, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe suffered humiliating defeats in their opening group matches and the lugubrious showing can certainly not be left unchallenged as it invites piles of answers from football authorities within the COSAFA region. Surely, a country like South Africa with all the available resources has no business in playing second fiddle to football minnows such as Guinea, unless some sort of convincing explanations are clearly spelled out. Zambia started off like a house on fire against the defending champions and 2006 World Cup qualifiers Tunisia, and looked poised for an upset until their rusty rearguard ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ºcommitted inexcusable schoolboy errors – throwing the Tunisians another lifeline which saw them crawling their way back into the game after looking dead and buried at some stage. The Zimbabwean Warriors put up a gutsy show against the star-studded “Lions of Teranga” from Senegal, but once again sloppy defending certainly abbreviated their stay in the Land of the Pharaohs and the Warriors could be soon on the next available flight back to Harare. Angola’s “Palanca Negras”, one of the five African representatives at this year’s World Cup finals in Germany, looked anything but contenders, with Barcelona’s leading marksman Samuel Eto’o opting to use the Indomitable Lions’ opening match as shooting practice in an effort to sharpen his scoring boots ahead of encounters with hosts Egypt and Libya respectively. However, we can still take solace from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s astronomical performance against the high-rated Togo in their opening match. The boys from Kinshasa are likely going to hoist the Southern African Development Community (SADC) flag high at the three-week tourney if their opening match against Togo is anything to go by. Portsmouth skillful target man Lomana Lua Lua, though too ambitious at times, inspired his country to another remarkable performance when DRC held neigbouring Angola to a goalless draw despite playing with ten men for 72-minutes after Tressor Mputu fell foul of the referee’s crime sheet for a silly offense, which rightly warranted a red card. There have been quite a significant number of disturbed football followers wanting to know why local soccer commentators always exclude DRC from the Southern African Region when mentioning the region’s representatives at the 25th African Cup of Nation finals. Please allow me to clear the air here, though the Democratic Republic of Congo is a confirmed member of SADC on the political level – it’s a total different kettle of fish on the pitch since DRC is not a COSAFA member as they operate from the second tier of West African Football Union (WAFU). There are two sub-regions in the vast West African Football Union, headed by Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Togo, Ghana, Guinea and Senegal in the first sub-region, while the likes of Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville and Central African Republic are amongst some of the affiliates in the second sub-region. As it stands now, three of Africa’s representatives at this year’s World Cup finals in Germany, with the exception of Ivory Coast and Tunisia, look destined for an early exit from the AFCON Tourney – let alone going beyond the first round. It would be of great interest to see how many coaches are to be given the boot after completion of the African Cup of Nations – because failure to reach the knock-out stages has great potential of signaling the end of any coach, notably those would-be coaches at this year’s World Cup finals. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚º The performance of Angola, Togo and Ghana, is certainly dispatching shivers down the spines of many football lovers on the entire African continent, and while the Ivorian Elephants collected maximum points from their opening two matches – I’m still not convinced with their pedigree when it comes to the big stage. Anyway, the countries representing Africa at the World Cup finals deserve their place after going through a marathon of qualifiers against formidable opponents – so let us all hope they will jack up their act and make Africa proud when the world’s biggest showpiece gets underway in Germany, come June 2006. France won the World Cup in 1998, but alas we all know it was a combination of talented African footballers who made the French team triumphant -so, it’s time now for the sleeping giants of global football to stand up and be counted !!. That’s it for the time being, so let me call it quits until next Friday.