By Robson Sharuko
Prophet Walter Magaya says his next big football project is to try and win the rights to sponsor the COSAFA Cup because the regional tournament has charmed him as a powerful vehicle that promotes unity and happiness across Southern Africa.
The prophet believes they can help contribute to transforming the COSAFA Cup into a bigger and more exciting football tournament where national team coaches would be forced to field only their best players helping to improve the quality of the game across the region.
A number of high-profile players, notably Zimbabwe’s Khama Billiat, Wales-based defender Alec Mudimu and Sweden-based striker Tinotenda Kadewere, featured at this year’s COSAFA Cup where they helped the Warriors win a sixth crown in dramatic fashion after a 4-2 victory over Zambia in a thrilling final that spilled into extra-time.
Regular Warriors captain Knowledge Musona had also been drafted into the squad, but just like centreback Costa Nhamoinesu, had to be excused because of concerns from their European clubs they could aggravate injuries which had stalked them during the season.
Zambia had also drafted some big name players, including Spartak Moscow forward Fashion Sakala, who trained with the squad at their training camp before he was withdrawn from travelling to Polokwane on the recommendations of his Russian club.
Midfielder Emmanuel Banda, who was recently a teammate of Musona at Belgian side KV Oostende, had also been roped into the Zambian squad for the COSAFA Cup, but was then withdrawn by his club who felt he needed to use the off-season to rest.
However, striker Lazarus Kambole, the highly-rated forward who plays for ZESCO United, made the trip and scored all the three goals, including a double in the final against Zimbabwe, for Chipolopolo while Polokwane United’s Salulani Phiri did not make the trip after having been drafted into the squad.
Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter didn’t go with most of his regular players, but drafted a number of players from established sides like Mamelodi Sundowns, SuperSport United, Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Bidvest Wits for the COSAFA Cup campaign in Polokwane.
He also called striker Luther Singh, who plays for Portuguese side Sporting Braga, into the squad although he was later dropped from the starting XI after a lifeless performance in their quarter-final defeat in which he also missed a penalty in the shootout.
Magaya says the COSAFA Cup had huge potential to become a bigger and more competitive tournament and he, and his partners at his Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries, believe they can give a helping hand to its transformation by coming in as sponsors.
The prophet hosted the Warriors at his Yadah Hotel complex in Waterfalls in Harare ahead of their adventure in South Africa and promised the players and coaching staff $1 000 each if they brought the trophy back home.
“We have been in football here for some time now and we believe that we are playing our part in the transformation of the game and the success of the recent success of the Warriors, from being the only Southern African country at the last AFCON finals to winning back-to-back COSAFA Cup titles, shows there is an improvement,’’ he told The Herald.
“I have always said that Yadah Stars can disappear, but I will always be a part of the Warriors because they belong to me as a Zimbabwean just the way the team also belongs to everyone who calls himself or herself a Zimbabwean and we all have to play our roles to try and ensure they are successful.
“The joy that I saw on Saturday among ordinary people, when we equalised at the last minute and then went on to win, was incredible and this is something that you want to always see in a country, the happiness, the love for one’s country.
“This tournament has huge potential to grow and we want to see if we can be part of it as the sponsors so that we can help it get to the levels that we believe it can reach and it becomes bigger and you will see that its appeal across the whole region, if not the continent, will also grow.
“We will talk to the organisers and see if we can come in as sponsors and, for us as a Ministry, it’s also good because we have extended our presence across Southern Africa and playing our part in helping the people of this region find a lot of joy, in a competitive football tournament, will be something that we will love to be doing.
“When you see the pictures in the stands, the happy Zambians, the happy South Africans, the happy people of Botswana and the happy people of Zimbabwe, all united by football, you can understand why we believe it’s important that we become partners of this tournament.
“After firmly establishing ourselves as true partners of football in Zimbabwe in the past two years, I believe the next phase should be extending our partnership to the rest of Southern Africa, through the COSAFA Cup, which has really charmed me as a tournament that unites the people of our region.’’
Last year, the Warriors received R500 000 for winning the tournament which was held in Rustenberg in the North West of South Africa.
“I think we can also come with a decent package for the COSAFA Cup because we have already been spending a lot in football in the past few years,” said Magaya.
“Last year alone, we spent about $1,6 million towards Yadah Stars, the transport costs, the accommodation at away matches, the allowances, the bonuses for the players and other expenses.
“So, we believe that we can come up with a decent package that can excite the organisers who can then decide if they want us on board or not.
“We would also be happy to see the tournament being played in other parts of the region because the people there also want to watch the games being played on their soil.
“Right now, the COSAFA Cup is mainly played in South Africa, but our proposal would be to take it to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia, Malawi, Angola and all the other members states in the region.” The Herald