COSAFA Castle Cup history packed with stars

The COSAFA Castle Cup has a proven track-record of producing players for the various national teams from the region, not least this year’s hosts South Africa.

Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter admits he was disappointed by a quarterfinal exit for his team, but that should not detract from the experiecne gained by his young team.

“I am disappointed with the [quarterfinal] result, but this tournament must serve some sort of purpose for us,” Baxter said.

During his first stint as Bafana Bafana coach, Baxter launched Katlego Mphela’s career through the COSAFA Castle Cup.

Former Bafana Bafana and Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira also used the tournament as a springboard to blood for the national side.

It was Parreira who discovered players such as Teko Modie, Kagisho Dikgacoi and Thanduyise Khuboni, to mention just three, who became regular internationals from 2008 onwards.

Under Parreira’s tutelage as the national team coach, these players went on to play a major role in Bafana’s FIFA Confederations Cup and World Cup, respectively, in 2009 and 2010.

With that said, we take a look at four players from across the region who have used the tournament to boost their intenational careers.

This man is the poster boy of Parreira’s visionary planning. Dikgacoi received a call-up from the then ‘less fancied’ Golden Arrows side and went on to become a vital cog in Bafana’s midfield. Not only did he become a regular for the national team, but Dikgacoi also earned himself a move to the English Premiership, where he spent seven years playing for Fulham, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City, until his return to South Africa last season.

The midfield workhorse started playing in the tournament from the Under-20 level before graduating to the senior one. Nengomasha became a hit when he arrived in South Africa to play for Kaizer Chiefs with his crunching tackles and hard-marking style. In fact, Nengomasha made this position be an important one in the game as his displays were top notch. He is one player who launched his football through the tournament. He was regular for Kaizer Chiefs under many coaches at the Naturena-based side.

What an import from Botswana. An intelligent player and a good passer of the ball, but not the fastest of players, Selolwane was a marvel when in possession. He played for Santos, Ajax Cape Town, Jomo Cosmos, SuperSport United and University of Pretoria during his seven-year stay in South Africa, and you can hardly mention Botswana’s success during his time without naming him. Selolwane also played in the US where he was an important player for Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake, among others.

Where do we start with Colins Mbesuma? A record breaker, he was in his debut season for Kaizer Chiefs in the PSL when he scored 35 goals in all competitions in the 2004/05 season, which also saw Chiefs winning the league under the late Ted Dumitru. Those exploits saw him earn a move to Portsmouth in the English Premiership but he did not make a success abroad. But like Nengomasha, Mbesuma played in the junior ranks of the COSAFA tournaments and has made himself a name as one of the best strikers in the region. His international debut goal was in the COSAFA Castle Cup against Mozambique in 2002. Ntofontofo, as he is known, was bulky marksman, who packed a powerful shot and with an ability to dribble.

By Mzwakhe Ngwenya