Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Will Southern African teams continue to falter at AFCON?

It is no secret that African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is dominated by West Africa. West African teams have been the dominant force for a very long time and it looks it would take time for other teams to come on board. The only region that comes close is North Africa that has won the last three editions.

For Southern African it is just a sorrow and somber state because Southern African teams are always faltering and never easily make it to the finals. The only Southern African team that won AFCON was South African in 1996 after defeating Tunisia. In the next edition South Africa reached the finals where they were defeated by Egypt. Zambia also remains the only Southern African team to have reached the finals in 1994 and were defeated 2-1 by the Super Eagles of Nigeria. It is also rare for the region to have more than four teams in the AFCON. In the current edition there are only four, which are the hosts, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and even Zambia. Angola do not consistently qualify for AFCON just like Malawi and Mozambique.

Once they qualify the teams are knocked out in the preliminary stages. The only team that consistently qualifies is Zambia but just like others they never progress further. Players from the Southern African region also find it tough to penetrate the Big Three professional leagues that are English Premier, Spanish Laliga and Italy’s Serie A. On the other hand players from the West African region are in their abundance in those leagues and are doing exceptionally well. The Technical Officer of Botswana Football Association, Philemon Makgwengwe told Sunday Standard that there are a variety of factors attributing to the region’s failure to continuously do well at AFCON. He said the main undoing is lack of competitive tournaments in the region. Makgwengwe said most countries in Southern African region do not take seriously the available tournament of COSAFA. “The COSAFA tournament was meant to intensify competition in the region so that it could be at par with other countries.

But countries are sending their development teams and in that way how do you enhance competition. There are tournaments for youngsters and in that way we are killing the region. Other regions take their own tournaments seriously and that is why they will always be ahead of Southern Africa,” he said. Makgwengwe also emphasized that other another main undoing is lack of participation by regional clubs in African club competition. He said most West and North African clubs are taking part annually. He said some of those countries are very poor but they never give an excuse of why they would not participate. South African side, Orlando Pirates remains the only team from Southern African to win African Club Championships. That was 15 years ago after defeating Ivorian side, ASEC Mimosa. Makgwengwe also stressed that the football associations should stand up and vigorously market players from the region to the bigger leagues. He said most academies around the world are dominated by players from other regions while it is rare to find those from Southern Africa.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.