Soccer Personalities Mourn Nations Cup Nightmare

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By Confidence Musariri Football personalities across the country have expressed their heartfelt dismay at the performances of Southern African teams which were left eating huge slices of humble pie at the Nations Cup in Egypt. Regional powerhouses South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola have all carried the torch for SADC in recent times and yet, in Egypt, not one of them will be extending their stay. “It is the administrators’ fault looking at the resources at Southern Africa’s disposal,” said Black Africa Chairman Kandas Paulino. Paulino said football administrators in the region must shoulder the blame for failing to run the game and meeting its demands. “It also shows the level of Southern African football, we are not on the same level as countries from the Congo (DRC) northwards. Their players are based overseas and for a team like Angola it’s also their background which had an effect,” Paulino argued. The Black Africa leader’s argument is based on the fact that North and West Africa have decimated the French League by having more than 50 players from the French League at the tournament. United Africa Tigers coach Ali Akan called on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to organise two Cup of Nations, “one for Southern Africa and the other for the North because the levels are totally different”, adding, “or else this region will continue to suffer”. Unlike Paulino’s sympathy, Akan expressed his disappointment over Angola: “By going to the World Cup everyone thought they had the character yet they lacked the attitude.” He labelled Zimbabwe’s woes as being political and economical although their play was not disappointing. However Brian Isaacs, the Orlando Pirates gaffer believes otherwise. “Our region does not have the depth of players needed at such a tournament. The standard is too high,” said Isaacks refusing to accept that the regional ambassadors and all Cosafa giants have shot themselves in the football foot though. None of the interviewed coaches had the answer as to why the region’s top marksmen, Benni McCarthy (SA), Colins Mbesuma (Zam), Benjani Mwaruwari (Zim) and Fabrice Akwa (Ang) all crumbled under the weight of expectation in Egypt. The unanimously reached verdict was that it would have been an outrageously optimistic soul’s desire to believe that the four would win the tournament, but the overall performance was expected to be better. Former African Stars mentor, Norrie Kaanjuka, urged the Cosafa teams to keep the players that played at this tournament for the next two years, for consistency sake. He noted that teams would continue to wilt at grand stages if coaches are rotated and players juggled each and every year. “It’s back to the drawing board of course but the coaches should not be sacrificed. “We just do not have the material at such events and we need to build it years before.” Kaanjuka advised Angola to play many friendlies ahead of the World Cup; since they failed because of inexpe-rience while the other three should not be aggressive off the pitch. “In 2002, I was not surprised that Senegal could beat France, all because of a certain link that we as Southern Africans lack,” said Blue Waters coach, Shepherd Murape. According to him Francophone countries have established academies, which are funded by France, the former colonial master. “France has invested in these players from a tender age and they have direct contact with the players, giving them the best resources. “That is why these teams are superior and players can easily switch nationality to become French or West African. “Their relationship is more than politics. We might have economic resources, but do we have football resources. Britain takes players from its former colonies and does not invest anything, this kills development at another level.” In a separate interview with Nampa, Seth Boois, the national team technical director had this to say: “South Africa and Zambia’s performance was not of high standard, there is a need for the region to establish professional leagues as it will attract a variety of players all over Africa.” The man at the helm of the Brave Warriors’ resurrection advised SADC nations to visit the West and North African countries’ schools of excellence. After such mediocre performances, the Cosafa giants will return to their bases, with more lessons leant than experience, although their fans will not accept a traditional Egyptian teaching, ‘After the game the king and the pawn go into the same box.’