The 21st edition of the COSAFA Cup kicks off on Tuesday 5 July in Durban, South Africa. The competition, which is reserved for national teams from southern Africa, has also made a habit of welcoming teams from other parts of the continent.
What is COSAFA?
The Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) was established in 1997. It comprises 14 federations: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Angolan Arthur de Almaida Silva was elected president last May, while Comorian Saïd Ali Athouman is vice-president. COSAFA organizes several competitions: the senior men's and women's COSAFA Cup, and those reserved for men under 17, 20 and 23.
The COSAFA Cup was created in 1997 and is held every year. Two editions have been cancelled, in 2010 in Angola, officially for economic reasons, and in 2020, due to the Covid-19 epidemic. Only since 2008 has the tournament been played in one country. South Africa has hosted it every year since 2015. Other countries - Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe - have hosted it only once. Different formats have been used, but since 2008 the competition has been played in a group stage system, followed by knockout matches. In some years, a system of consolation matches for early eliminated teams has been applied, as in 2017 and 2019. This time, a group system, with eight teams taking part, and a knockout phase, with the six seeded teams entering the competition, has been retained (see below).
Zimbabwe, record winners
With six wins, Zimbabwe holds the record for most wins (2000, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2017 and 2018). However, the Warriors will not be able to add to their record this year as their federation has been suspended by FIFA. Next in line are South Africa, the defending champions with five trophies (2002, 2007, 2008, 2016 and 2021), as well as Zambia (1997, 1998, 2006, 2013 and 2019), while Angola have won the COSAFA Cup three times (1999, 2001 and 2014) and Namibia once (2015).
Guests from other zones
For several years, COSAFA has made a habit of inviting teams from other parts of Africa. Ghana inaugurated the series in 2015, followed by DR Congo in 2016 and Uganda in 2019, while Senegal, finalists in 2021 against South Africa (0-0, 4-5 on penalties), were invited again. Other teams, including Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania, had also been invited, but they did not make the trip to southern Africa. As in 2021, Senegal will send a team of local players to South Africa. This will also be the case for almost all the teams taking part in the 21st edition of the COSAFA Cup.
All to Durban in 2022
South Africa has all the necessary sporting and hotel facilities and it is no surprise that the 2022 edition has been awarded to it. In the first round, eight teams, divided into two groups (Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Seychelles in Group A, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius in Group B) will compete. The winners of each group will qualify for the quarter-finals. They will meet South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia, Madagascar and Senegal.
Three stadiums have been selected: the King Zwelithini Stadium in Durban (10,000 seats), the Princess Magogo Stadium (12,000 seats), located in KwaMashu, a township on the outskirts of South Africa's third largest city, and the Moses Mabhida Stadium (55,500 seats), where the semi-finals and the final will take place. The third place match has been scrapped.