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EPIC ‘BIRDS’, LEOPARD CUP FINAL

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My dearest readers ... “If God wanted us to play football in the clouds, he would have put grass up there.”This is not me saying it but one of the greatest manager of his generation, Nottingham Forest’s Brian Clough and he was emphasising the importance of passing the ball on the feet. No doubt, Sunday’s Cup final will pit against each other two sides capable of playing carpet football with the uncanny ability to send the ball to French kiss the net many times than we can all imagine.


Of course, there is the smallernyana matter of Leopard official Frank Hurube who was persona-non-grata on Saturday at Somhlolo National Stadium as Swallows beat Zambia’s Zanaco to make history by qualifying for the CAF Champions league Group Stages for the very first time. 


The red, white, blue clad brigade on the terraces were in full voice disapprovingly singing Hurube’s name accusing him of ‘assisting’ the visiting ‘Bankers’ of Zambia,  an unpatriotic misdemeanour they claimed was happening for the second time as they alleged he had ‘assisted’ Lesotho’s Bantu FC who trashed Swallows 3-1. In the residents of the social networks, he was as guilty as a sin. But this cannot be proven and for all I care, it could be figment of some people’s fertile imagination.


It is perhaps sensible that the Swallows management has moved quickly to dispel this notion and warned their supporters to stop accusing Hurube of something they cannot prove as the long serving official had “specifically been requested by Mbabane Swallows FC (as per the norm) to assist with security arrangements for our CAF opponents, starting with the game against Bantu FC of Lesotho,”
Part of the carefully worded statement sent to this newspaper reads.


Be that as it might, there is no doubt this has stoked up the fires going to Sunday’s Cup final – off the field. God knows the truth and it will set Hurube free if he didn’t cross the line as alleged by the irate Swallows fans who sang his name curtly on Saturday as Tony Tsabedze & Co. cruised to a history-defining victory.


Petty politics aside, Sunday’s eagerly-awaited Cup final has all the ingredients of a thriller rolled into one. As far as Jose Mourinho’s football heritage is concerned, fact is, Swallows will enter the Cup final as firm favourites to win against the police side. Not only has Swallows beaten the Sifiso ‘Nuro’ Ntibane-led outfit six successive times in all competitions already but they also licked them 2-0 in the self-same tournament Cup final on 13 March 2016 in the first edition. Jersey number 11, Banele ‘Pupu’ Sikhondze, that football walking brain box, opened the scoring chart with a classy finish in the 23rd minute before the midfield Rolls-Royce, Njabulo ‘D4D’ Ndlovu, who has the same durability and endurance as the Toyota Model van he is nicknamed after, wrote the afternoon’s most romantic storyline with a deft finish in the 85th minute.


The ‘Beautiful Birds’ were to defend their cup the following year – though on controversial circumstances – when recuperating striker, Sabelo ‘Sikhali’ Ndzinisa headed the winner in the 26th minute on February 5, 2017 against Young Buffaloes. Controversial the win was in the sense that to this very day, Young Buffaloes spokesperson, Sandile Gwebu still believes Nhlanhla ‘Mshengu’ Kunene’s ‘goal’ DID cross the line before desperately being cleared by workhorse, Papy Kabamba.


Unfortunately lack of goal-line technology or the nonsensical VAR are still a distant memory in this country. We will never know the truth but one thing is certain, it was captain fantastic, Tony ‘TT’ Tsabedze who accepted the glittering trophy from the hands of a person of no lesser stature than the patron of the tournament itself, His Majesty King Mswati III for the second time in a row.


Will it be the third time lucky again? Or will Leopard step up to the plate to spoil the unending celebrations and their unprecedented dominance of local football?

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