Huge future ahead for COSAFA Men’s Most Promising Award nominees

There is always young talent in abundance in the Southern African region, but it is whether our players from the region can get the opportunity to shine on the big stage.

COSAFA certainly provides that with its age-group tournaments and many a young player has been spotted at the Under-17 or Under-20 competitions, and had their career path accelerated.

All three of our nominees for the COSAFA Men’s Most Promising Player Award have used COSAFA events to enhance their reputation on the international stage and have, through their own hard work and ability, set themselves up for a long career in the game.

Zambian midfielder Miguel Chaiwa is currently on the books of Swiss side Young Boys but has spent the second half of this season on loan at Schaffhausen.

He was captain of Zambia side that claimed the COSAFA Under-17 Championship in 2019, despite the fact he was just 15 at the time but clearly a player that was mature beyond his years.

Within three years he had made his senior national team debut and shortly after that signed for Young Boys in Switzerland.
He played his part in the club winning the Swiss league title in 2022/23 and was involved in four matches in the UEFA Champions League this season, including against English giants Manchester City.

He was part of the Zambia squad that qualified for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations but did not play for the senior national team last year, and it will be his immediate aim to work his way back into coach Avram Grant’s thinking.

Mamelodi Sundowns winger Thapelo Maseko played in the 2022 COSAFA Cup while still on the books of SuperSport United, providing him with a taste of full international football at the age of 18.

He continued to progress with Matsatsantsa and ahead of the 2023/24 season made his move to Sundowns, where he was an instant hit, playing a large role in them winning the inaugural African Football League.

He was named Player of the Tournament, beating some true greats of the African continent. He had scored the winner in the semifinal victory over Al Ahly, and also in the quarterfinals versus Petro Atletico.

A slight injury meant he was also unlucky to miss out on international action in 2023, but he continues to help Sundowns towards an unprecedented seventh domestic league title in a row.

Our third nominee is Gift Mphande, who started 2023 at Atletico Lusaka in Zambia but later moved on loan to Israeli club Hapoel Rishon LeZion.

He was a stand-out player for Zambia at the 2023 Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations that was staged in Egypt, making plenty of people sit up and take notice.

The centre-back has adapted superbly to life abroad and been a near ever-present for his team. His form earned him a call-up to the Zambia senior national team for their World Cup qualifiers in November, where he made his debut against Niger.

He has made rapid progress in 2023 and continued that into 2024, so has a big future ahead of him.

The winner will be announced at a gala awards ceremony in Johannesburg on May 9, with a panel of judges from across the region having assessed their performances for the period of January 1 to December 31, 2023.

The judging panel from across the 14 member nations that make up COSAFA are renowned for their knowledge of Southern African football and are as follows:

Houssamidine Ben Ahmed (Comoros), Ivan Capuepue (Angola), Rob Delport (South Africa), Gerard Govinden (Seychelles), Peter Kanjere (Malawi), Jesse Kauraisa (Namibia), Kagiso Kgaogano (Botswana), Sibusiso Masilela (Eswatini), Sandra Mwila (Zambia), Boitelo Radebe (Lesotho), Heriniaina Samson (Madagascar), Benoit Thomas (Mauritius), Steve Vickers (Zimbabwe) and Raimundo Zandamela (Mozambique).