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BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF MANZINI WANDERERS FC

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My dearest readers ... For weeks on end now, I have been following with keen interest the developments at Manzini Wanderers Football Club.


Some of the verbose expressions attributed to the fans, the ‘emotional owners of the club’, as the boss of bosses, Dr Irvin ‘Iron Duke’ Khoza is wont to say, has been mind-scrambling to say the least.


I have been reluctant to have my two cents worth say on the rumblings that are threatening to once again derail this great team – without a trophy in 13 years now – even before the season begins.

First and foremost, I didn’t want to sound like a stuck record because this has been the case every preseason at Wanderers where the power struggle comes to the fore, culminating in another wretched season of missed opportunities. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, this is a family club; from the scrawny dog, (named Nhlangano, God knows why) at home to every great grandson of Mlonyeni – one of whom is now doing national duty in the COSAFA bound National Under-17 squad – they worship with the ‘Weslians’. My dearly departed father was the biggest Wanderers fan I have known.

As a young soccer-mad boy, he took me to the country’s different stadia and if you were to support another team, he swore to Mlonyeni’s grave, he wouldn’t have paid for your school fees. It was that serious and emotional. So, each time I have to deliberate on the politics within the Wanderers family, naturally I find myself tiptoeing on egg-shells.

But I am a sucker for football and lucky enough to have this premium space to have a sports conversation with you dear reader every Tuesday in this State-Of-Nation-Sports-Address (SONSA). I try my damndest to be as objective as I can even though it would be dishonesty of me to suggest I am completely objective in my views.

Objectivity – like beauty and the truth – lies in the eyes of the beer....er beholder. Everyone has a dose of it. Whosoever can claim is not biased means he has not chosen something to die for and those people, as Dr. Martin Luther King Junior once said, are not worth living.
In any case, I know that late American President John F Kennedy was not smoking his socks when he said, the “Hottest place in hell will be reserved for those who maintain neutrality in a moral crisis,”. I refuse to sit on the fence and not deliberate this issue for those simple reasons.


You see, Manzini Wanderers Football Club is one of the three big and oldest teams in the country, having been formed in 1957. They command such a huge following that their return to the forthcoming SwaziTelecom Charity Cup has been applauded by even the sponsor, Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation.

They were sorely missed in last year’s season opener. Having narrowly missed ending their 13-year wait for a trophy after going down 2-1 to Young Buffaloes in the SwaziBank Cup final on May 6, losing the self-same cup final for the third time, many expected the ‘Weslians’ to re-group and forge a united front coming to the new season.

In that very dark SwaziBank Cup final cloud, many saw a silver lining of comfort given the quality of their side and the amount of hard work done which rightly earned coach Nyanga ‘Crooks’ Hlophe the ‘Best Coach of the tournament’ award. Don’t believe the haters, he thoroughly deserved it!


It was expected that Hlophe, in a classic case of continuity, would mould his young lads into a closely-knit unit that will show the hunger, physicality and determination that mirrored their coach in his playing days.
But all this has been undermined by politics within the family as a bunch of fans led by you-know-who is hell-bent on causing anarchy in brazenly calling for changes in the Board of Directors structure. The fans believe a certain Mehluli Nhlengetfwa could be the Modern day biblical Moses to take the club away from bondage to the Promised Land. They believe the current Board of Directors in the likes of Sandile ‘Chief’ Dlamini and Peter Mathaba have overstayed their welcome.
Therein lies the rub.
You cannot just wish these people away. They have been with the club since I learned how to pronounce ‘Mahhala Hha!’. Couldn’t have been a way to bring whosever wants to join the directorship in a more peaceful and professional way than this brazen coup d’état?
As much as the fans are the ‘emotional owners’ of the club and a stakeholder, there is no way they can run the team on their own. A club needs a management and Wanderers has a leadership. There is a platform to discuss whatever grievances the fans have with the current leadership but there should be no point where the club is on a ‘vacuum’ because such will bring anarchy and chase away potential sponsors.
This then brings me to the role played by the so-called ‘Elders’. With all due respect, this structure has no place in modern football, especially in teams like Wanderers where they bring more problems than solutions.
I am hoping, dear reader, that the July 14 meeting called by the Board of Directors will bring some sanity in this lunacy. I am hoping the ‘Weslians’ family comes out of the meeting a stronger and united club. Our football needs a stronger and a stable Manzini Wanderers Football Club ready to compete for honours. If they cannot do it for the thousands of those souls who worship with the ‘Weslians’ around the country, then they must do it for the man who gave birth to this angst-ridden arm-chair critic writing on this page every Tuesday. I think I can see my dearly departed father smiling on the pearly gates of Heaven alongside Mabulalehleka, Macumbacaleke, Mgewu, Dovololo, all carrying their favourite beers in hand.
Kahleni Maweseli ...

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