Southern Times Writer
Tshwane – At a time when the Southern Africa region is pre-occupied with the dual challenge of stopping an insurgency in Mozambique and grappling with the new coronavirus pandemic, football has demonstrated how sport can play an enormous role in unifying people.
Since July this year, SADC military troops have been at the forefront of driving out Islamic State-linked rebels calling themselves Al-Shabab in Cabo Delgado Province of Mozambique and other areas.
The military conflict has resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 civilians, has displaced around 800,000 others, and left countless more with the scars of war.
In South Africa – the continental epicentre of the coronavirus – the country’s National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) has made significant headway in containing the spread of the global pandemic through an intensive vaccination drive.
While these two battles rage on, the 2021 Cosafa senior men’s and women’s championships have proved that football can be an effective tool to create hope and optimism during times of crises.
The men’s competition, which was contested from July 2 to 17 in South Africa, marked its return after it was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And a total of 12 women’s teams, almost all of them from Southern Africa, are competing in the women’s showcase which began on 28 September and will conclude on October 9.
Football is the most popular sport in Africa and being unable to physically attend matches, due to coronavirus safety protocols, has robbed supporters of the exciting atmosphere that can only be enjoyed inside a stadium.
However, hundreds of thousands of spectators across Southern Africa have tuned into the televised matches while Cosafa social media and digital platforms have made all previews, live matches, post-match interviews and other aspects related to the tournament accessible to football lovers. “COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on the world of football, and it is no different in our region, where our member associations have had to adapt to the new normal,” Cosafa president Philip Chiyangwa said.
“We as Cosafa have made great strides in understanding how to host matches during the global pandemic and the Cosafa women’s championship is our seventh tournament in just 10 months,” he added.