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Cosafa Challenge shelved

Teboho Molapo

 MASERU — The Cosafa Senior Challenge tournament which was scheduled to start next month has been cancelled after hosts Angola failed to honour a commitment to stage the gala.

The regional showpiece, which was set to run from November 13 to 29, was awarded to Angola in July after the government and Cosafa pledged to share the costs of running the tournament.

In a statement this week, Cosafa president Suketu Patel said the Angolans had failed to keep their word.

“Cosafa had reached an agreement with the Minister of Youth and Sports for Angola and the Federação Angolana de Futebol,” Patel said.

“But regrettably, despite Cosafa having given the Angolan government every opportunity to honour their earlier commitment to stage this year’s event, they have failed to give Cosafa the necessary guarantees for hosting in that country.”

He said Cosafa was already finalising negotiations with another member association for the staging of the next Senior Challenge tournament.

This is the first time that the regional southern African football championship will not be staged since its inception in 1997.

The cancellation could have serious repercussions for Lesotho after the country’s football authorities banned the national football team, Likuena, from participating in the 2012 African Nations Cup qualifiers.

With no Cosafa action Lesotho’s senior national squad might have to wait until 2013 for the African Nations Cup qualifiers to be involved again in competitive football.

Lesotho were expected to send a development side made up of players from the national Under-20 team to the tournament in Angola.

Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) public relations officer Baba Malephane was however putting up a brave face when contacted by the Sunday Express on Friday.

Malephane said the cancellation was no earthquake.

“When you look at its timing it would have disrupted the Premier League which has already been affected by the Under-20 qualifiers,” he said.

At the last Senior Challenge tournament played in Zimbabwe, Lesotho finished second in their group behind eventual champions Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, Lesotho have been drawn in the same group with South Africa and Namibia in the Metropolitan Cosafa Under-20 Youth Championships to be staged in Gaborone.

Only the group winners will progress to the semi-finals.

Hosts Botswana will face Zimbabwe, Malawi and Swaziland in Group A.

Group C will feature holders Zambia, Angola and Mauritius while Group D pits Madagascar, Mozambique and Seychelles.

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