The 2021 COSAFA Cup will once again provide the next generation of top match officials in the region with the chance to hone their skills in international action when the competition is played in Nelson Mandela Bay from July 6-18.
And there will be female representation on the panel as South African referee Akhona Makalima prepares to take charge of matches, along with assistants Diana Chikotesha (Zambia) and Paulina Joel (Namibia).
Makalima has officiated at the COSAFA Under-20 Championships and the CAF Under-20 Cup of Nations, and is among the leading female referees on the continent.
“We had referee Akhona Makalima, who went to the CAF Under-20 Cup of Nations and did very well,” says Felix Tangawarima, the COSAFA Referees Manager who is also a member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Referees Committee and a FIFA Technical Instructor.
“In 2019 we had assistant referee Diana Chikotesha, who officiated at the CAF Under-23 Cup of Nations that served as the qualifiers for the Olympics. She also did very well.
“All of these match officials have shown themselves to be extremely capable. In fact, we probably had a 50-50 split of male and female match officials in the Under-17 and Under-20 zonal qualifiers last year and in many instances I thought our female referees outshine their male counterparts.”
A number of COSAFA match officials will be at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and so were ruled out of appearing at the COSAFA Cup, which has been a fertile breeding ground for some of the leading referees and assistants on the continent.
The likes of South African Victor Gomes, Janny Sikazwe from Zambia, Joshua Bondo of Botswana and Helder Carvalho from Angola all learnt their trade in COSAFA junior and senior competitions.
“I believe COSAFA is producing the best referees on the continent,” Carvalho said in a recent interview. “We know the other referees from other regions as we see them at major tournaments. But in terms of quality and quantity of referees, COSAFA is doing a great job and better than other regions.”
Makalima believes tournaments such as the COSAFA Cup can be a stepping stone to what she ultimately wants to achieve in the game.
“I am very happy with the progress I have made so far,” she told IOL last year. “The reason I am saying so, it is because I am not where I was yesterday. That is an achievement that you need to celebrate. Even if it’s one step forward, we need to celebrate.
“We grow up in a country where it is a must to have a mentality that pushes you to want to achieve more. Yes, I am not entirely OK where I am at now because I want to go to the World Cup.
“One day I want to be the best referee in Africa, one day I want to be the best referee in the COSAFA region. So, once you get to the next stage, you set new targets. I am here now because of dedication.”
COSAFA CUP REFEREES
Abongile Tom (South Africa)
Akhona Makalima (South Africa)
Antonio Dungula (Angola)
Artur Adriano Vaz Joao Alfinar (Mozambique)
Athoumani Mohamed (Comoros)
Audrick Nkole (Zambia)
Brighton Chimene (Zimbabwe)
Eldrick Adelaide (Seychelles)
Andofetra Rakotojaona (Madagascar)
Keabetswe Dintwa (Botswana)
Osiase Koto (Lesotho)
Sabelo Sibandze (Eswatini)
COSAFA CUP ASSISTANT REFEREES
Brighton Nyika (Zimbabwe)
Diana Chikotesha (Zambia)
Elphas Sitole (South Africa)
Ivanildo Meirelles De Sanches Lopes (Angola)
Lucky Kegakologetswe (Botswana)
Paulina Joel (Namibia)
Petros Mzikayifani Mbingo (Eswatini)
Singeve Sem (Namibia)
Siza Dlangamandla (Lesotho)
Venestancio Cossa (Mozambique)
Joseph Nyauti (Malawi)