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‘BIRDS’ MOMENT OF TRUTH!

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My dearest readers ... It will be the match the competition wants, it is certainly the match the people want, and it is the match history demands.


Today, May 15, 2018, at the revamped Mavuso Sports Centre when the clock strikes 3pm, the country’s best football side – by a mile – will attempt to continue its upward trajectory towards conquering Africa in the second match of CAF Champions League Group D clash against Angola’s Club Desportivo 1 de Agosto.

Don’t get your tongue twisted trying to pronounce the name of the top Angolan side who have as many as four other sporting disciplines under their name. Just call them Agosto and save yourself all the trouble.

Yes, today’s match is just the second match of Group D where each of the four teams will play six games but the truth and reality is that each game counts, each result has a huge bearing on the dreams of reaching the knockout stage of the premium competition. For Swallows, this is a home match and it needs no rocket scientist to deduce that at this stage of the competition, home wins are crucial if you harbour any thoughts of qualifying for the quarter-final stage.

With both teams having played draws in the opening match against Zambia’s Zesco United and Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel, respectively last weekend, today’s result will have a huge bearing, especially as Zesco United are also facing Etoile du Sahel in the other fixture for Group D.


For Swallows, this fixture will stir memories, ghost and we can only hope, hearts too. Their record at home in the African sojourns is impeccable in recent times. Save for the demoralising 3-1 second leg defeat to Lesotho’s Bantu FC at home on 21 February, the Swallows of Mbabane did not lose at home in the CAF Confederation Cup last year.


But today they face a team which have earned some respect in the CAF Inter-club competition even though they are not world beaters. Far from it. They did, however, sent shockwaves around the continent when they booted out South Africa’s Absa premiership side, Bidvest Wits 3-2 on aggregate in the first round to reach the group stages.

Therefore, they cannot be taken lightly. The army side also have in their midst former Mamelodi Sundowns striker, Fiston Abdul Razak and in Serbian coach, Zoran Maki, they have an astute technician. So, today, here are two clubs, who are committed to playing attacking football who will compete for the supreme honour with no compromise. It would be a betrayal to the game if we were to witness a sleep-inducing affair between the two teams in a game to be broadcast live by pay-per-view channel, SuperSport.


Swallows’ risk-taking, cavalier football, which is now their trademark, is what has made them the toast of the continent. Swallows’ love affair with the CAF Inter-club competitions was the driving force of its dearly departed owner, Victor ‘Maradona’ Gamedze; a philosophy that has not been abandoned or doubted by the current gaffer, Thabo ‘Koki’ Vilakati. It is unfortunate that Vilakati is not being given the credit he so richly deserves for building a squad with a strong mentality, masterminded greater accomplishments since he famously crossed the Rubicon from his beloved Mbabane Highlanders.

Victory today would be another testament to his ability, his genius in drawing extraordinary feats from players who should be sated or exhausted or both after not having had a proper rest in the last three years in which domestically they have won a boutique of 10 trophies, including a hat-trick of Ingwenyama Cup titles.


With the trophy cabinet laden with almost all domestic titles on offer, you would expect the Swallows players to lose their hunger. But this has not happened with ‘Koki’ Vilakati’s all-conquering charges. He has ensured sipper, Tony ‘TT’ Tsabedze is like a car with its mileage clocked, Wonder ‘Samba Jive’ Nhleko snarling and beguiling since he returned from South Africa many moons ago, dancing the ‘samba’ past defenders with the dexterity of an Amazon reptile. Felix Badenhorst is still probing forward with an eye for goal as a shark is drawn to blood. Jersey number 11, Banele ‘Pupu’ Sikhondze, that walking football brain box, still cajoles his teammates with mesmerising silky skills. Every team needs their water carrier, their pack horse and Njabulo ‘D4D’ Ndlovu is this Swallows side’s beast of burden. He covers every blade of grass with the zest and energy of the Toyota model van he is named after. It is upfront, where Swallows lack the cutting edge.

Daniel Atokarah misses even grand-ma tap-ins, and his profligacy in front of goal makes one conclude that he would be probably not score even in a brothel. Much maligned striker Sandile Hlatshwako will return to the starting line-up and for God’s sake, we can only pray and hope he brings along his scoring boots.


Swallows need a win today to continue their upward trajectory in the Africa sojourn and prove that indeed they can dance with the Lions in the jungle and swim across what my beloved Orlando Pirates Football Club Serbian mentor, Micho Sredojevic describes as a ‘lake full of hungry crocodiles’.


This is a game that will raise their profile as a team and endear them to the hearts of the nation at a venue where the country not only changed its name to Eswatini but held its historic 50/50 celebrations recently.


Kubo Maswaiswai ...

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