Goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane captained South Africa on home soil at the COSAFA Castle Cup last year and sees the huge value that the tournament brings to soccer in the region.
He is delighted that Castle Lager have signed on as title sponsors of the championship up to 2020 and says in that time we are sure to see the future stars of Southern African football emerge, starting with the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup to be staged in Namibia from June 11-25.
“It’s an excellent tournament, you only have to look back through the years to see the number of top players that have been developed through the COSAFA Castle Cup,” Mabokgwane says.
“Many have made their mark in the tournament. I look at my [Mpumalanga Black Aces] teammate Collins Mbesuma and see the impact he had for Zambia in the competition and how that brought him to the attention of top clubs. It provided a real springboard for him and many other players.”
Mabokgwane says the COSAFA Castle Cup provides players and coaches the opportunity for high-level competition on an annual basis, and a chance to experiment with new ideas away from the pressure-cooker of FIFA World Cup qualifiers and continental finals.
“The COSAFA Castle Cup is an excellent stepping-stone and in my opinion it is vital that teams take it seriously because the opportunity for growth as a player is huge. The experience that youngsters can gain in the competition can see them develop much quicker as players. It is hugely beneficial.”
The keeper was also pleased with the inclusion of African Nations Championship winners and African Nations Cup bronze-medallists DR Congo as a guest nation in this year’s tournament in Namibia.
“They are such a good side, they are among the strongest African teams at the moment. I am sure they will bring a very strong team because of when the COSAFA Castle Cup is being played.
“Playing teams like this will help us to get stronger, both in terms of the national team and our club football when we play in African competitions. They will be a team to watch, definitely.”
South Africa exited the COSAFA Castle Cup in the quarterfinals last year after a goalless draw with Botswana and subsequent penalty shoot-out defeat.
Mabokgwane believes Bafana Bafana will be going all-out to claim their first title since 2008.
“Any tournament that we enter, we go there to win it and this will be no different. We have everything to gain, a trophy, but also there are sure to be plenty of scouts watching the competition and that provides, especially the younger players, the opportunity to impress.
“There are plenty of players who have used the COSAFA Castle Cup as chance to win a contract in Europe and this is another opportunity to do that. I just hope all the clubs release their players because there is a lot of benefit for them in competing.”
South Africa will enter the COSAFA Castle Cup at the quarterfinal stage and will learn their opponents when the draw is made in Windhoek on April 25.