The COSAFA Castle Cup has a well-established history of featuring some of the brightest young prospects from the Southern African region who have gone on to either have successful careers in Europe, or feature heavily for their national sides.
And the 2017 COSAFA Castle Cup to be staged in South Africa’s North West province from June 25-July 9 will be no exception, giving us a glimpse into the future of the Southern African game.
The regional showpiece tournament is often used by national coaches to increase their talent pool, which makes for fascinating viewing for fans and club scouts alike.
It is no exaggeration to say that the future of the Southern African game will be on display at this year’s competition, and there is likely to be huge interest from many scouts and coaches from around the world, not least the local South African Premier League sides, who have used past competitions to snatch-up fresh talent.
Zimbabwean Peter Ndlovu was already an established star when he featured in the first few tournaments in the late 1990s, but a new name to emerge for the Warriors was that of striker Benjani Mwaruwari, who announced his potential with a goal against Mozambique in 1998. It was there that he caught the attention of Jomo Cosmos owner Jomo Sono and was taken to South Africa, where he excelled.
The rest, as they say, is history and he went on to have an extremely successful career in England with Portsmouth and Manchester City.
South African playmaker Teko Modise was ear-marked as a prodigious talent, and he was handed his first Bafana Bafana cap in the COSAFA Castle Cup against Malawi in 2007. He has missed just a handful of internationals since then and will be a key figure for the national side come the 2010 World Cup.
So to will Katlego Mphela, the man currently entrusted with firing in the goals for Bafana at next year’s tournament. He too was handed his international debut in the COSAFA Castle Cup in 2005 and grabbed his chance, scoring two goals as South Africa defeated the Seychelles 3-0. He followed that up a day later with a goal against Mauritius.
Zambian Chris Katongo burst onto the scene in the COSAFA Castle Cup in 2003, and a year later followed the same route as Mwaruwari to Cosmos and ultimately on to Europe, as well as being appointed as skipper of his national side.
Namibian Collin Benjamin got his international bow on the 1999 COSAFA Castle Cup, prompting a move to Germany and Germania Schnelsen, before taking the step-up to the Bundesliga and Hamburg in 2001. The 31-year-old became a top-performer for the Germans.
The COSAFA Castle Cup has been a rich source of talent for Angola, with the likes of former Manchester star Manucho (2007) and Al Ahly striker Flavio (2001) both announcing their potential in the tournament and going on to successful club careers.
The same can be said for a trio of outstanding talents in Dipsy Selolwane (Botswana), Dennis Masina (Swaziland) and Tico-Tico (Mozambique), who have all been leading lights for their various club sides.
And we should not forget our other Legends of 2017 – Tinashe Nengomasha (Zimbabwe), Rotson Kilambe (Zambia), Siza Dlamini (Swaziland), Lehlohonolo Seema (Lesotho), Congo Hindjou (Namibia) and Brian Baloyi (South Africa), who all used the tournament to further their careers.
The draw for the 2017 COSAFA Castle Cup has taken place with the first round Group A containing East African guest nation Tanzania, Malawi, Mauritius and Angola. Group B has Mozambique Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Seychelles.
The quarterfinal draw sees Botswana take on Zambia, Namibia play Lesotho, South Africa meet the winner of Group A and Swaziland take on the top team in Group B.