The 20th year of the COSAFA Castle Cup is set to light up the Southern African region once again as the competition to find the ‘Footballers of the Future’ takes centre-stage in South Africa’s North West province from June 25-July 9.
First played in 1997, the regional championship has helped to develop some of the greatest names to emerge from Southern Africa in the last two decades, including the likes of Zambia’s Chris Katongo, Zimbabwe’s Benjani Mwaruwari and Botswana’s Dipsy Selolwane.
But it is not just players who benefit from the tournament. The competition has also been a proving ground for coaches, matches officials and administrators to hone their skills in a highly competitive environment.
“The COSAFA Castle Cup is our flagship tournament and an opportunity for the Southern African region to come together in a celebration of excellence and our continued growth as a football region. The number of players who have emerged through the COSAFA Castle Cup over the past two decades highlights its importance, while it also provides many countries in our region with top-class competitive football at a time when their calendars have otherwise been empty,” says Council of Southern Africa Football Association (COSAFA) president Dr Phillip Chiyangwa.
This year will see 13 of the 14 COSAFA nations present in South Africa, with only Comoros Islands withdrawing their participation. They will be replaced by East African guest nation Tanzania, who return for a third shot at glory after previously competing in 1997 and 2015.
“We are delighted to welcome Tanzania once again and look forward to the East African flair they bring to the competition. It is all systems go for the COSAFA Castle Cup and we look forward to hosting the tournament in the world-class facilities that South Africa’s North West province has to offer. We hosted a hugely successful tournament there in 2015, and we look forward to an even better showing this year,” says chairman of COSAFA’s Competitions Committee, Timothy Shongwe.
The format of the competition will remain the same as previous years, with the eight lowest ranked sides according to past COSAFA Castle Cup performance taking part in the first round.
They are split into two pools, each containing four sides, with the top team in each group advancing to the quarterfinals after the round-robin stage.
There they will join the six other sides in the field as the tournament continues in a knockout format. The losers in the quarterfinals drop into the Plate competition.
Castle Lager, who have been a valued sponsor of the COSAFA Castle Cup through the years and who were involved in the inaugural event in 1997, will once again lend their support to the regional showpiece.