Damaseb Beaten at COSAFA

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By Kuvee Kangueehi WINDHOEK Former Namibia Football Association (NFA) President Petrus Damaseb failed to be elected as the new president of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) on Saturday. Damaseb only managed to gain four of 13 votes and thus the president of the Seychelles Football Association (SFA), Suketu Patel, who garnered seven votes won comfortably with a more than 50% majority. However Damaseb gained more votes than Zambian Football Association Vice-President Kalusha Bwalya who was greatly tipped to win the elections. Despite the high expectations prior to the elections, Bwalya only managed to gain two votes. It is strongly believed that South Africa, which supported Patel, did a lot of lobbying for the new Cosafa president. After the elections the SAFA President Molefi Oliphant was quoted as saying that COSAFA has to be strong and progress so SAFA supported Patel because they believe he will push the region to a higher level. The president of the Seychelles Football Federation is also a member of the African Football Confederation (CAF) executive committee headed by long-serving continental chief Issa Hayatou from Cameroon. Patel will serve a four-year term and replaces Ishmael Bhamjee as president. Botswana-based Bhamjee resigned on 31 October this year after he admitted that he had illegally sold World Cup tickets in Germany at highly inflated prices. He resigned from the executive committee of the world governing body FIFA soon after and was expelled from the Botswana Football Association on a 42-40 vote after a stormy meeting. While Patel prepares for a critical four-year term, 1988 Footballer of the Year and pre-vote favorite Bwalya was left wondering where his campaign went wrong. Africa has been painfully slow to elevate former footballers to positions of power, but Bwalya had been confident ahead of the COSAFA meeting in the tranquil Botswana capital. “I have done my homework properly and I am confident it will be well enough to get me there,” the former star with Dutch club PSV Eindhoven told the BBC during the countdown. But a hint that all was not well came when Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) Vice-president Bwalya openly questioned whether president Teddy Mulonga would back him. “We’re in a war and there is no way you can give a gun to your friend.” Arguably the greatest footballer produced by the region, he coached Zambia to the 2006 African Nations Cup only to resign after the team was eliminated in the first round, finishing third in Group C behind Guinea and Tunisia. A former star with Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, Bwalya is also no stranger to administration having served as vice-president of the Football Association of Zambia for several years. The elections attracted a great deal of attention even from senior politicians in the region and Zambian Foreign Affairs Minister Mundia Sikatana had expressed regret at South Africa and Namibia’s decision not to support ex- Zambia National Football team coach Kalusha Bwalya at the COSAFA elections. Sikatana said he never imagined that South Africa and Namibia were going to oppose great Kalu. South Africa Football Association President Molefi Oliphant is reported in the media to have said his association opted for Suketu Patel of Seychelles while Namibia was in support of its High Court Judge Petrus Damaseb. While Bhamjee deserves credit for developing the game in one of the weakest football regions, his successor faces much greater demands with South Africa hosting the first World Cup awarded to Africa in mid-2010. And earlier that year Angola will become only the second country from the region after 1996 hosts South Africa to stage the African Nations Cup, the biennial 16-country showcase of football on the continent. There has also been criticism of the flagship Castle Cup competition for senior national teams with the latest format forcing teams to play on consecutive days in the group phase, often in sweltering afternoon heat. The COSAFA region comprises Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. – Additional reporting various websites