SINCE its inception in 1997, the Council for Southern African Football Association (COSAFA) Senior Challenge Cup has been used as a platform to develop and expose budding talent from the regional member countries.
In other words the COSAFA Cup is meant to help develop the ‘beautiful’ game in Southern Africa.
Through the years, this regional football development tournament has produced top-quality players some of whom have since become household names in the African sport.
Zambia has also managed to produce the likes of Collins Mbesuma, Christopher Katongo, Kennedy Mweene, Rainford Kalaba and most recent Bornwell Mwape, Kabaso Chongo, Mukuka Mulenga and Kondwani Mtonga.
South Africa is hosting the 2015 edition which kicks off today and Zambia, the defending champions, will join the fray at the quarter-final stage.
Being a tournament to help develop Southern African football talent, most participating nations are opting to use this event to expose hidden talent and scouts from various clubs across the world will be out in search of new players.
Hosts, South Africa named a relatively new squad made up of local players from the Premiership and lower division clubs as a way of building a new team for the future especially with the forthcoming
2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers.
The CHAN is a tournament exclusively for home-grown footballers who may not have an opportunity to represent their countries at more prestigious events like the World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Chipolopolo coach Honour Janza has made it clear that his team is still in transition and that the tournament will give him an opportunity to identify new players.
“It is important for us going forward that we identify new talent to add to what we already have, so the COSAFA Cup will be a platform to expand our player base. It is an opportunity for our local players to show their ability and what they can bring to the national team. We want a large pool of quality players, and I think at this tournament we will see a good mix of experienced players and youngsters who have the opportunity to learn and show they are national team material,” Janza said in an interview with COSAFA.COM.
This is how the COSAFA Cup should be viewed, building fresh teams.
But surprisingly, what is this hullabaloo of calling foreign-based players for a developmental football tournament?
Why should the Chipolopolo technical bench now start inviting professional players to represent Zambia at the COSAFA Cup?
Granted, Zambian football has not done well this year on the international scene but should we be desperate now even when going for a regional competition?
I was shocked when Janza initially named foreign-based players like Kalaba, Mweene, Nathan Sinkala, Given Singuluma and Aaron Katebe in his provisional COSAFA squad.
This left me wondering why Zambia’s top players should be called up for this event which should purely help the coaches identify new players and also the right stage for the local players to market themselves internationally.
However, DR Congo side, TP Mazembe where Kalaba, Singuluma, Sinkala and Chongo play made it clear that they will not release the Zambian footballers for the COSAFA since the tournament does not fall on FIFA dates.
The Congolese league is still on and Mazembe want all their star players available for the final push of the title. All the Mazembe players apart from Sinkala are expected to play crucial roles in the nine league play-off matches.
With Sinkala being the one out, Zambia has still requested for the defensive midfielder’s services in South Africa.
While Sinkala will bring the necessary experience to the squad, I still do not think he should have been called up for COSAFA.
FAZ and the Chipolopolo technical bench should allow local players to battle for the title after all Zambia won the regional tournament in 2010 with home-grown talent.
The 2013 edition acted as a springboard for the likes of Mulenga and Chongo to clinch professional deals in South Africa and Congo, respectively.
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