JOHANNESBURG – The winds of change, driven by the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa), that blew Issa Hayatou out of the CAF presidency he had held for close on three decades seem to have entered the football pitch.
Zimbabwe’s CAPS United stunned five-time African champions, TP Mazembe, to reach the group stage of the CAF Champions League.
Makepekepe, as CAPS are affectionately called, joined reigning champions Mamelodi Sundowns and Zanaco FC of Zambia in the group stage.
These achievements, as early in the competition as they are, are big deal for the region that has been the whipping boys of the continent.
After all they have for long watched their West African counterparts dominate the scene with their national teams. And at club level they had to watch from the sidelines as the North African teams reigned supreme
Sundowns' success last year seems to have inspired the region.
There are seven clubs from Cosafa in the CAF Confederation Cup who are a round away from reaching the group stage. It’s a sign of a healthy state of the game in the region.
But this shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. It should be the catalyst for the region to regularly do well and also dominate the continent.
It was exciting to see two Southern African teams, Sundowns and Zesco United, contesting the semifinal of the Champions League last year.
Both sides got there the hard way after facing the continents powerhouses such as Al Ahly, Zamalek, Enyimba, ES Setif, Wydad Casablanca and Asec Mimosas.
That feat should motivate them to do well this year and going forward. The problem is that the region struggles to keep their best players while they have also lacked the grit that characterises most of the teams further north.
The victory of Madagascan, Ahmad Ahmad, to take over from Hayatou should see the region play a bigger part in the running of the game. Danny Jordan is part of the new-look executive committee. For a long the region has been a spectator in the running of football in the continent, without much of a voice to influence key decisions.
Ahmad’s victory came through Cosafa coming together in Sun City, mapping a way forward with the intention of overthrowing Hayatou and playing a bigger role in the running of the game in the continent.
Clubs didn’t have a similar lekgotla. But there is clear intention to play a bigger role in the game on the field. It’s about bloody time! We have been watching other teams in continental competitions for a long time.
It’s a good sign that all four clubs who are representing South Africa in the continent are still standing, even though Bidvest Wits were demoted to the Confederation Cup. It’s not so much because more money has been put in these tournaments or that we are now taking them seriously that our teams are doing well. But it’s down to more exposure to these competitions and boxing cleverly.
It’s only fitting that South Africa should be at the forefront of driving the Cosafa revolution as the first country to win the Afcon in the region and the only one with two clubs who've been crowned African champions.