Mbabane: Mbabane Swallows assistant coach Siza ‘King Pele’ Dlamini is the sixth best COSAFA Cup legend in history. The former Jomo Cosmos and Sihlangu striker made the cut for COSAFA’s all-time top 10 legends. COSAFA is the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations. Fondly called ‘King Pele’, Siza was a deadly forward for Sihlangu in the COSAFA Cup in the late 90s and early 2000s in a team that included the likes of Dennis ‘Yuki’ Masina, Jerry ‘Mbazo’ Gamedze, Bongani ‘Ndezi’ Masangane, Sibusiso ‘Spoko’ Dlamini, Sipho ‘Shilton’ Dube and Mlungisi ‘Madzala’ Ngubane among others.
Notably, the COSAFA tournament was tough to negotiate in those days as other countries also had good players. Zimbabwe had a well decorated striker in Peter Ndlovu, Angola had Fabrice Akwa, Mozambique had a dominant Manuel ‘Tico Tico’ Bucuane, while South Africa fielded the likes of Pollen Ndlanya, Jerry Skhosana, Thabo Mngomeni, the late Lesley Manyathela, and other top players.Lesotho paraded Bloemfontein Celtic stalwart defender Lehlohonolo Seema, while Botswana fielded the likes of Dipsy Selolwane and others. Most of the mentioned players are in the top 10 list of all-time COSAFA legends.
10. DIPSY SELOLWANE -BOTSWANA
Selolwane is both a stalwart and legend who has spent 13 years as a crucial cogwheel energizing the ‘Zebras’ midfield. Having earnestly risen through the ranks at his maiden club, Gaborone United FC, Selolwane moved to Denmark to play for Vejle BK and later plied his trade in the United States of America (USA) representing both Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake in the Major Soccer League.He was to later move to South Africa circa 2005, where he became an instant hit at Santos, Jomo Cosmos, Ajax Cape Town, SuperSport United and the University of Pretoria. Selolwane has featured in six COSAFA Cup tournaments – first in 1999 and his last being in 2006. His debut in the competition saw him score Botswana’s comfort goal during a 2-1 loss to South Africa against yet another legend and goalkeeper, Brian Baloyi.
9. FABRICE AKWA – ANGOLA
Akwa was a daring factor in the Angolan side that competed in the early years of the COSAFA Cup, featuring in seven tournaments between 1998 and 2006. He lifted the trophy twice, both in 2001 and 2004 and to date remains the leading goal-scorer for ‘Palancas Negras’ as the Angolan national team is fondly known in the competition with five goals to his golden soccer boot. Akwa was a star striker for Angola at the turn of the century, who turned out for Portuguese giants Benfica, among other overseas clubs. He scored a hat-trick against Mauritius in 2006 to go with goals in 2000 and 2001. He also scored the winning goals in the qualifiers that sent Angola to their first ever World Cup appearance in Germany back in 2006, and later played in Qatar before finishing his career with Petro Atlético at home. He has scored 38 goals in 78 international appearances for his country.
8. KERSLEY APPOU – MAURITIUS
Appou is yet another revered legend of the early years of the COSAFA Cup representing Mauritius, when they featured in seven tournaments between 2000 and 2007 where he netted four goals. No other player has scored more for the island nation in the competition and he was a feared forward in his day. His international career actually spans 15 years as he only retired in 2014. He had become the oldest African player to feature at the highest level when he turned out against Mauritania in an African Nations Cup qualifier at the age of 43 years and 354 days, beating the previous mark set by Cameroon great Roger Milla at the 1994 World Cup.
7. BRIAN BALOYI – SOUTH AFRICA
Baloyi is an illustrious former goalkeeper admired by fans of South African soccer giants, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns including the national team, Bafana Bafana. He has won 10 trophies in his glittering club career and 12 years with the South African national side, Bafana Bafana which included appearances in the COSAFA Cup in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2005, where he donned the captaincy. Nicknamed ‘Spiderman’ for his gymnastic goalkeeping style, Baloi was one of the finest goalkeepers of his generation. Among many of his accolades is winning the African Cup Winners’ Cup with Kaizer Chiefs in 2001. He played for ‘AmaKhosi’ between 1993 and 2004 before leaving to join rivals Sundowns, where he played until 2010.
6. SIZA DLAMINI – ESWATINI
Dlamini is an admired big name in Eswatini having played in nine COSAFA Cup tournerments between 1997 and 2007, only missing out in 2005 and 2006 events. He netted the first goal in a famous 2-0 victory over Zimbabwe in 2002, and later that year also netted against South Africa, though Swaziland lost that game 4-1. Dlamini also found the back of the net in a 2-0 win over Madagascar the following year. He made his name at Mbabane Swallows in Eswatini, and has also played in South Africa for a number of clubs, most notably Lamontville Golden Arrows and Jomo Cosmos.
5. CONGO HINDJOU – NAMIBIA
Johannes ‘Congo’ Hindjou is a hugely respected former Namibia international who played in all of the first six COSAFA Cup tournaments between 1997 and 2003. The Namibian midfielder netted twice in Namibia’s first ever appearance in the competition, a 2-1 win over Zimbabwe in 1997, and bagged another that year in a 4-1 success against Malawi. He was a stalwart of the national side over a number of years and remains one of Namibia’s finest ever international players.
4. ROTSON KILAMBE – ZAMBIA
Kilambe played for Zambia during the 1998 and 2000 African Nations Cup finals and would also have a trophy-laden club career at home, including South Africa and China. He also won Man of the Match in his debut in the COSAFA Cup in a 1-0 victory over Malawi in 1998, and later grabbed the goal that made ‘Chipolopolo’ lift the trophy that year after humiliating Zimbabwe. He also bagged a brace and another Man of the Match prize in 2002 in yet another victory against Mozambique. Kilambe also played for South African giants, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns, as well as Bloemfontein Celtic, with whom he won the top eight competition. He was also a Zambia league winner with Zanaco in 2002, the year in which he finished as the league’s top-scorer.
3. PETER NDLOVU – ZIMBABWE
Ndlovu is the greatest goal scorer ever for Zimbabwe in the history of the COSAFA Cup having netted seven goals during his time in the competition. Ndlovu always made himself available for the COSAFA Cup despite playing in the big leagues in England and his goals return was impressive, spanning over some seven seasons. His hat-trick in 2004 against Eswatini were the final goals he scored in the regional championship. He started his career with hometown club Highlanders in Bulawayo, before moving to England with Coventry City. He also played for Birmingham City, Sheffield United and Huddersfield, before returning to the mother continent to play for South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns.
2. LEHLOHONOLO SEEMA – LESOTHO
Seema is a former stalwart of the Lesotho national side, who is the current coach at South African club Bloemfontein Celtic where he also spent many years as a player. The defender played in eight COSAFA Cup tournaments between 1998 and 2006, and served for a decade in all with the national side. He played for Chelsea FC, Matlama FC and Bantu FC in Lesotho before winning a move to Celtic in 1998 on the back of his COSAFA Cup showing, and has also spent six seasons in the Free State. He later joined Soweto giants, Orlando Pirates where he played for another five years that included a loan spell with Mpumalanga Black Aces. “The COSAFA Cup was a great launching pad for my career as it gave me international exposure which I never imagined,” said Seema.
1. TICO-TICO BUCUANE– MOZAMBIQUE
Manuel José Luís Bucuane, universally known as Tico-Tico, is a former Mozambique international and one of the greatest strikers his country has ever produced. Tico-Tico played in a record nine COSAFA Cup tournaments over an 11-year period that makes him one of the competition’s greatest even if he could never quite steer Mozambique to the coveted title. He made 22 COSAFA Cup appearances in all, netting eight goals in the process, and became one of the most feared strikers in the competition. He played for Estrela da Amadora in Portugal before joining South African side Jomo Cosmos for the first of three spells in 1997. He also played for Tampa Bay Mutiny in the USA, as well as South African PSL clubs, SuperSport United, Orlando Pirates and Maritzburg United.