The COSAFA Cup has for the past 22 years been the launchpad for career of Southern Africa’s top players, providing the perfect platform for them to showcase their talent.
This year’s event in Durban will be no different, as scouts from around the world will descend on the South African coastal city from May 25-June 8.
In the build-up to the 2019 event, we remember the Players of the Tournament in the last five editions and take a look at where they are now.
2013 – MUKUKA MULENGA (ZAMBIA)
Mulenga played a leading role in Zambia lifting the trophy on home soil as they defeated Zimbabwe 2-0 in the decider, the playmaker’s artistry and guile a joy to watch.
That form won him a move to South African Premier Soccer League giants Mamelodi Sundowns, from where he had loan spells with Bloemfontein Celtic and Mpumalanga Black Aces.
A year before the COSAFA Cup he was named Footballer of the Year in Zambia, and was seen as the future of the national side.
But a serious angle injury stunted his chances at Sundowns and it was reported in 2018 that he had quit the game on the advice of doctors, still only 25-years-old.
2015 – WANGU GOME (NAMIBIA)
Namibia were surprise winners of the 2015 COSAFA Cup as they romped to the title in South Africa’s North West province, their midfielder ‘engine’ Wangu Gome playing a huge part in their success.
Born in Windhoek to an Angolan father, Gome was turning out for Civics in his homeland but lit up the COSAFA Cup with some magical displays as the Brave Warriors lifted the trophy for the first time.
That won him a move to BidVest Wits in the South African PSL, and although he found game-time hard to come by, was part of the squad that lifted the league title in the 2016/17 season.
He later moved to top-flight side Platinum Stars and this season turned out for Cape Umoya United in the National First Division.
2016 – ONKABETSE MAKGANTAI (BOTSWANA)
Botswana reached the final of the COSAFA Cup in 2016 but lost out to South Africa, with their stand-out man undoubtedly Makgantai.
He has become a superb performer on the region al stage and was perhaps unlucky not to lift the trophy again in 2018 as he scored five goals to lead Botswana to the Plate decider.
After his exploits in 2016 he was signed by DR Congo giants AS Vita Club and spent some time in Kinshasa before moving to South African top-flight side Baroka FC for the 2018/19 campaign.
He was part of the side that stunned Orlando Pirates to lift the Telkom Knockout title during the campaign and has certainly used his COSAFA Cup exposure to further his career.
Still only 23, he has the world at his feet …
2017 – KNOX MUTIZWA (ZIMBABWE)
Mutizwa edged compatriot Ovidy Karuru to the Player of the Tournament prize two years ago as he netted five goals to Karuru’s six as Zimbabwe cruised to the trophy win in South Africa.
The striker has gone from strength to strength since then, and was at the time already on the books of South African PSL side BidVest Wits.
He had spent six months on loan at Lamontville Golden Arrows and soon after made that move permanent as he currently campaigns with Abafana Bes’thende in the league.
Mutizwa has enjoyed another excellent season, netting some spectacular goals, and taking his tally to nine for the campaign.
2018 – AROHASINA ANDRIANARIMANANA (MADAGASCAR)
Andrianarimanana is more simply known as Dax, and was superb at the COSAFA Cup last year with his box-to-box style of play and eye for goal.
That won him a move to South African giants Kaizer Chiefs, though it was not all smooth sailing as a protracted transfer battle with former side Fosa Juniors and injury has limited his performances.
But he has shone for the club in the second half of the season and been among the top players in the league in the last few months.
The 28-year-old would likely not have been known on a regional level were it not for the COSAFA Cup but has taken his chance superbly.