HARARE – The Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup, southern Africa’s own regional football championship, is set to bounce back next year with reigning African champions Zambia hosting the tournament.
The tournament was last played in 2009 with hosts Zimbabwe winning it after beating Zambia 3-1 in the final at Rufaro Stadium.
Cosafa president Suketu Patel made the announcement last Friday when the regional governing body signed a broadcasting deal with Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) in Lusaka.
Patel called on the regional membership to show greater unity to boost continued growth and the advancement of football development in order to improve the region’s showing in international competitions.
Cosafa are also exploring the possibility of staging a club competition in the form of a Champions League, that would see the top teams from each member country compete for a regional club title.
Meanwhile, Football Association of Zambia (Faz) spokesperson Erick Mwanza confirmed that Zambia will next year host the Cosafa.
He said Zambia, who have won the tournament three times, will host the championship in Lusaka.
The Zambians are coming on the back of a successful staging of the just-ended regional Supreme Council for Sports in Africa (SCSA) Zone VI Youth Games.
Cosafa has resolved to continue holding the annual regional championship.
Sponsorship challenges have previously hampered the staging of the tournament.
When South African Breweries, through its Castle brand, announced its withdrawal from the regional showpiece in 2007 after an 11-year partnership, there was widespread speculation of the imminent death of the tournament, which enjoyed enormous popularity around the region.
The competition, which started in 1997, pitted the 13 Cosafa members against each other, initially in a knockout tournament spanning most of the calendar.
Later, because of rising costs and more countries taking part, it became a series of mini-tournaments. – Godknows Matarutse