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Thankyou Billen for beating Mighty' Lesotho

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My dearest readers... Sunday 14 October 2012.

Mark this date in your calendar because this is the day when the national team, Sihlangu finally found the elusive commodity called a win.

It is beside the point that the slender 1-0 victory was achieved against ‘MIGHTY’ Lesotho – please repeat after me, ‘MIGHTY’ Lesotho – who are ranked 158, 32 places better than our 190-ranked Sihlangu.

Many would dismiss such an achievement as inconsequential, trivial, irrelevant and trifling, but what is most important is that the cycle of misery has been broken. Of course, I did not engage in any epileptic chicken-style celebration ala Jomo Sono when our man in Lesotho, Ntokozo Magongo delivered the news because I know victory against Lesotho does not and should not really mean we have suddenly woken up from our somnambulistic state.

 I am not oblivious to the fact that Lesotho, by any standards, are not world beaters. Beating Zimbabwe 2-0 away on July 5 2002; beating Togo at home on June 8 2008, remain out finest football moments. This lowly newspaperman still gets goose bumps remembering those memorable moments.


However, not to water down the ‘rare as a hen’s-tooth’ victory’ achieved by Belgian coach, Valere Billen’s infant battalion, it’s been three dreary years since Sihlangu last won any match. The last victory being a 3-1 win over equally ‘giant-killers’ Comoros in the COSAFA Senior Challenge Cup. So victory, any victory for that matter, is and should be applauded whole heartedly from Mbabane to Lavumisa. A Sihlangu victory, in particular was becoming as rare as snow in Lavumisa!

That’s why Belgian coach, Valere Billen will now have a special place in annals of our football history, for having stopped the squad’s winless streak. That the victory was against Lesotho, in an international friendly match, nogal, doesn’t matter at all.

That’s why I have two words to say to Billen and his boys - WELCOME BACK.

Welcome back home boys. Welcome back to a world where you can look yourselves in the mirror again. Having left as mere mortals; whippings boys of the African football; permanent residents of the no hopers area you returned home last night as a sleeping giant that is about to awaken. Welcome back to a place where, truly like a prophet, you are unrecognised in your own land, but you should never listen to the detractors and cynical critics, you can hold your heads high and say you did your country proud.


Nobody gave you a chance – myself included (I am hard to please, others call me an angst-ridden arm-chair critic). Many thought you were going to be like amputees playing somewhere in the beaches of Sierra Leone and like lambs to the slaughter you would be turned into mincemeat. But thank God, it was Sunday, October 14 2012. You were not intimidated or overawed. Welcome back boys to football’s top table. Welcome back to the prospect of being a wonderful bunch of players who can bring back the self-belief and love for the national team in the heart-strings of every Swazi. Your dollops of determination, bundles of self-belief, never-say-die spirit, character, krag, camaraderie and comradeship have not gone unnoticed even if it was against ‘MIGHTY’ Likuena.

If truth be told, you are still far from being a force to be reckoned with or deserving of bathing in the country’s adulation, but a journey with a thousand miles begins with a first step.

Yes, you are not even part of the countries on their way to participate in the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 in South Africa – you withdrew from the competition because of financial reasons – but so are the Indomitable Lions of Africa (Cameroon), the ‘Brave Warriors’ of Zimbabwe, Mozambique’s Black Mambas and The Zebras of Botswana (not to be mistaken with the Zebras in South Africa’s PSL). There will all be at home watching the African biennial showpiece on the small screen in the comfort of their living rooms like the rest of us.

I say, welcome back from a brink of total collapse. You showed courage, determination, skill and assurance that all is not lost for Sihlangu and indeed, you have rid the country of that psychological baggage. From here we can build a team for the future. Yes, people care about a winning team and they get behind it. But after this victory, you have surely broken the cycle of misery. You have raised your hands to every Swazi out there that you need their support.

That’s why I say, welcome back boys. It is unavoidable not to have great admiration of this predominantly youthful side. Bless them.

Yes, Mr Valere Billen, they do not say that first impression lasts for nothing………this is Valere good!



And now... When the CAF Licence C requirement was enforced, we were made to believe it would be the panacea to all our football ills. I think the opposite is true.

Most of our teams are struggling with their performance this season and we should be asking ourselves why. Maybe before the coaches engaged in the Licence B, which I am told will separate the chaff from the grain, we needed to do an analysis on how the Licence C courses have impacted on our football.

This coaching certificate in some countries, like South Africa, is enough to have you sit on the bench at the Vodacom league yet in this country people treat it as el supremo of all coaching certificates. We can’t be serious.

This just shows the level we are at as a country. This revered Coaching Licence C has seen other coaches with more qualifications and from countries at a higher level than ours, being questioned, made to run around. Former Manzini Wanderers coach, Matthews ‘Chaka Chaka’ Mandlazi, for instance, has only been cleared recently that infact he is over-qualified. Former Malanti Chiefs coach, Patrick Milaso had to return home because his ‘papers’ were not in order. This is the same man who has been coach for some South African teams and even went on attachment in England’s Bolton Wanderers.

As I write this, Manzini Sundowns new coach, Luis Do Santos’s coaching qualificationa are still being verified. I am not advocating for the coaches qualifications not to be verified, but if a coach produces a Pro-Licence coaching certificate, which is far higher than Licence C, why shouldn’t that particular coach not be allowed to coach in this country?

Therein lies the rub……

We are getting too far ahead of ourselves; it is not helping our cause. We will continue producing ‘top coaches’, who however, get weak on their knees when they are asked to lead our top teams like Highlanders, Wanderers or Swallows.

We have too many ‘classroom’ coaches, who are good on theory only and that’s our biggest problem as a football country...


That said... South Africa’s National First Division outfit, Sivutsa Stars FC were in the country over the weekend where they played some friendly games against Red Lions and Manzini Wanderers respectively.

Being a FIFA week, one would have expected our CAF tournaments representatives Mbabane Swallows, who will be campaigning in the tough-as-teak Champions league and Green Mamba, who will represent the country in the Confederation’s Cup, to have utilised this period to also get their own preparations under-way.

After Royal Leopard’s amazing journey in the Confederation’s Cup this year, our teams ought to realise that in this type of tournaments there are no short-cuts and you have to be prepared not just financially but even on the playing side as well.

I know as a matter of fact that Swallows boss, Victor ‘Maradona’ Gamedze has a dream to see his club reach the group stages of the CAF Champions League and he always relishes the prospect of his team making its presence felt in the African soccer jungle.

 His team, granted is proving to be the ‘big fish’ in a small pond on local shores, but it will have its work cut out in the rigorous African jungle as most of the players lack international exposure. It would have put them in good stead to make use of the FIFA Week ‘breaks’ to play some tough opposition from neighbouring countries like Mozambique, South Africa or even Zimbabwe. Unless of course, the idea is to participate, not to win or go far in the continental tournaments then the lacklustre approach would be justified. Poor preparation, I have come to realise, prevents poor performance.

 Green Mamba are currently a pale shadow of the side which won the SwaziBank Cup convincingly only seven months ago and at this rate there would be turned into mincemeat in the continental tournaments. January is just two months away and the preparations for the continental tournaments must start now and failing which, Gamedze’s dream of reaching the group stages of the CAF Champions league, will remain just that, a dream…………..


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