Angolans Must Polish Their Act

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Carlos Kambaekwa The Angolan football authorities have won themselves very few friends if any by failing to roll out the red carpet for visiting teams and match officials during the ill-fated African Club Champions League and CAF second leg preliminaries in Luanda last weekend. If the war-torn country is dead serious with their bid to host the 2010 African Nations Cup finals – then it would in all honesty really need to get the fundamentals in shape. The author has it on good authority that the visiting teams were housed in sub-standard accommodation, while the two Assistant Referees from Mozambique had to sacrifice their privacy after they were obliged to share lodging facilities – something unheard of at this level. Civics’ players and officials were spread in three different hotels with two of them surely elevating our own Star Hotel in Khomasdal to five-star status. More agony was still to follow with match Commissioners made to wait in searing heat for ages at the airport before they were first escorted to some Nil Star Hotels, which they point-blankly rejected until suitable accommodation was found. Angola, together with fellow COSAFA affiliates Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are all vying to be given the host status for the 2010 AFCON finals. Other candidates are Nigeria, Senegal and Libya, while Gabon and Equatorial Guinea have tabled a joint bid. A five-member delegation from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) is expected in Namibia sometime in July, whereupon the Bid Committee will make its Presentation in an effort to impress the CFA officials. All eight bidding nations would be afforded a chance to make their respective Presentations, and would be downsized to five thereafter. The three countries likely to fall by the wayside in round one are Angola, Zimbabwe and Senegal while the joint bid of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea appears to be a non-starter – thus leaving Namibia, Libya, Mozambique and Nigeria the only serious contenders. In my opinion, Namibia’s only serious challenge could come from Libya and I strongly believe Nigeria will just be another face in the crowd until the home stretch, just for political comfort (oops football politics I guess). However, my immediate concern is the strained relationship within the hierarchy of the Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA). Those at the helm of Namibian football must bite the bullet and start patching up the rocky relations with BIG BROTHER, the influential and powerful South African Football Association. It is a well-documented secret that the NFA and SAFA are not the best of bedfellows following Namibia’s blind loyalty towards long-serving football guru Ishmael Bhamjee of Botswana. Namibia together with several other lightweights in the COSAFA region stood their ground and threw weight behind the candidacy of Bhamjee on the FIFA Executive after COSAFA President Molefi Oliphant reneged on an earlier undertaking not to challenge the much-traveled Bhamjee for the vacant position. With South Africa hosting the historic 2010 World Cup finals, Oliphant became too ambitious and tried to wangle himself into FIFA’s top brass, which resulted in COSAFA eventually relinquishing its powerful position on the FIFA Executive as the votes were split. Oliphant is a bitter man and feels betrayed by those whom he perceived to have bedeviled his ambition, that of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Bra Sepp Blatter and Issa Hayatou. Football logic suggests Namibia blundered big time by backing a dying horse in the form of Bhamjee, firstly for the CAF Presidency and lastly for the FIFA Executive. The once influential Bhamjee became statistics when he challenged Hayatou for the CAF Presidency, which Hayatou won hands down with a little bit of help from West Africa and the dominating Francophone nations. If one really wants to be pro-active so to speak, it’s not a foregone conclusion that it would just be another stroll in the park for Namibia, when the host country is announced. There are hopelessly too many factors to be considered; as it stands, infrastructure-wise, geographically and political stability-wise Namibia is head and shoulders above the rest, but we need to guide ourselves against potential petty politics which cannot be ruled out at this stage. Look, North Africa has just hosted two consecutive finals in Tunisia and Egypt respectively and it would be extremely difficult for CAF to take the games back there again in the case of Libya. Southern Africa has not hosted the games for over a decade and Namibia or Mozambique would be an ideal stage for a test run ahead of the World Cup finals in close proximity. Cosafa has a paltry 4 votes from the 24 votes within the CAF family, but each and every vote is vital and we’d better start with the lobbying and the first stop should be South Africa to rekindle the once blossoming relationship with SAFA. Football leaders urgently need to harmonize relationships within the COSAFA region if we are to realize our dream of bringing the continental showpiece this side of the equator for the second time in the history of African football. Finally, I would like to doff my Kori to the Civilians for their gutsy performance against the Angolan champions Sagrada Esperanca. Well done chaps!!, We are all very proud of you, and as I’ve said it before the victory is not only for Master van Staden and his outies but for the entire country. That’s it for this week – I’m off for the time being until next Friday.