Cosafa secretary general Sue Destombes says the scheduling of this year’s Cosafa Cup is meant to help Southern African teams to prepare for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament.
The expanded 24-team Afcon finals kick-off on June 14, ending on July 13, with Egypt hosting the tournament.
From the Cosafa region, Madagascar have already qualified for Afcon while Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia or Mozambique, Angola and Lesotho could book their places during the last round of qualifying matches in March.
“That is a very strategic time for the Cosafa tournament bearing in mind that the Afcon tournament starts on June 14,” Destombes was quoted as saying by The Herald.
“So it will be a two-week window between the end of the Cosafa Cup and the beginning of Afcon and we certainly hope that we have got several teams from the Cosafa region that have already qualified and (some) will qualify in the last matches to be played in March so that we have got a good offering to send to Egypt.’’
This year’s Cosafa Cup is highly likely to be staged in Zimbabwe after the regional football body’s President Philip Chiyangwa expressed keeness to have the defending champions host it.
Destombes has also given the strongest hint that Zimbabwe will organise the tournament. “You saw the women’s tournament in Bulawayo which was immensely successful. Some of you may or may not know that Cosafa 2017 was the biggest tournament and is now the biggest women’s tournament on the continent of Africa.
“We had 12 participating teams, which is bigger than the continental women’s championship itself and look at what a tournament it was. We had a full house at Barbourfields Stadium. It was a crowd that I think can be compared to that of the Champions League match between FC Platinum and Orlando Pirates.
“So we want to do the same again when the Cosafa Cup comes to Zimbabwe this year. We had a very good meeting with the Sports and Recreation Commission. They had a preliminary discussion with the Minister (Kirsty Coventry).
“There is just some paperwork that needs to be finished so that it can be sent back to the Minister but we are very confident that the tournament will be played in Zimbabwe from May 19 to June 1.
"While the teams are here, maybe, they get an opportunity to experience some tourist sites so, hopefully, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority will also come on board as a strategic partner to facilitate that.
“Whether we play in Harare or in Bulawayo they have the stadia that can support the tournament. They have got the necessary infrastructure in terms of training grounds, hotel accommodation, transportation and it’s a football-loving nation.’’
Zimbabwe last hosted the Cosafa tournament in 2009 and won it on home soil, beating Zambia 3-1 in the final at Rufaro Stadium. The Warriors are the record Cosafa champions with six titles, the latest ones coming in the last two editions that were held in South Africa.