The COSAFA office has put to rest reports that Botswana's slump in soccer rankings has resulted in Malawi taking its place in the seedings for the annual regional competition.
This means that the Zebras remain seeded and will play in the quarterfinals and not the preliminary stages. On Monday, there were media reports in Botswana and Malawi that the Zebras lost their seeding and will now play in the preliminary stages of the COSAFA Cup against Namibia, Madagascar, Lesotho, Seychelles, Mauritius and Comoros. This was because Malawi are ahead of the Zebras in the latest FIFA rankings. But the organisers of the tournament reinstated the Zebras among the seeded sides based on the FIFA rankings at the time when the invitations were extended to participating countries.
COSAFA executive secretary, Ashford Mamelodi said a decision was reached on Monday night that the Zebras remain among the seeded countries as per the April rankings when the invitations were extended. "The organising committee revisited the issue but after some deliberations, it was agreed that we stick with the initial plan which had Botswana amongst the six seeded countries. Obviously, Malawi will not be impressed by the decision but at times, we have to take such decisions," said Mamelodi yesterday.
Information reaching Mmegi Sport indicates that some people argued that if the draw was made based on FIFA rankings, then Malawi's Flames have to be seeded ahead of the Zebras. According to the latest FIFA rankings, Botswana are ranked 33rd in Africa, while Malawi are 29th. But at the time when COSAFA sent out invitations, Malawi were 38th while Botswana were 32nd, hence the decision to seed the Zebras ahead of the Flames.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) chief executive officer, Tosh Kgotlele said that they are happy that COSAFA has reverted to their original plan. "When I heard that we would play in the preliminaries, I was shocked as to why they had to change their original plan.
There was no point of changing because at the time they were using April rankings.
But I am happy that they had to stick with the original plan which means we will leave for South Africa on July 24 (for the quarters)," he said. Kgotlele was worried that the reports of the changes will disturb the plans of the Zebras coach Stanley Tshosane. This is because after the statement was released that the Zebras will play in the preliminaries, the team was supposed to go into camp today.
Tshosane will now have a chance to look at some of the Under-23 players and determine whether they can compete at a higher level. It is expected that the coach will make several changes in the COSAFA team as he tries to prepare the Zebras for the remaining 2010 World Cup/African Nations Cup qualifiers. Zebras take on Madagascar in Antananarivo in September before finishing the qualifiers against Mozambique in Gaborone the following month. Zebras are placed second in Group Seven with five points from four games behind favourites Ivory Coast, who have eight points.