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SIHLANGU DUG THEIR OWN GRAVE

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My dearest readers ... When a small boy fell from his seat next to the ‘Press Box’ at Mavuso Sports Centre just before half-time of the national team, Sihlangu Semnikati’s 0-2 defeat to a tactically savvy Tunisia’s Eagles of Carthage, I verily believed Sihlangu were also headed for a big tumble too.


The poor boy was whisked away to an ambulance by paramedics. What about our national team, Sihlangu?
When you are sick, you go to the hospital. When you seek salvation, you go to church. When you are stressed, you go to a shrink? When your car needs to be fixed, you take it to a mechanic?

Where then do we take our Sihlangu too, with all its ailments and man-made problems?
Therein lies the rub.


I laughed in my handkerchief when a friend of mine remarked that Sihlangu played well in losing 2-0 to the number one ranked country in the continent. Our lifelong FA President, Adam ‘Bomber’ Mthethwa, also believes so.

There are many others out there who are ‘happy’ that we lost 2-0 and ‘played better’ in the second half. Maybe they have a point. We lost 2-0 to a team that is not only ranked number one in Africa but is also just fresh from the World Cup 2018 in the land of the Vodka. But be that as it might be, we cannot start to celebrate mediocrity.

We cannot, for the life of me, celebrate losing because we will slide into this ‘comfort zone’ of losing yet we have a huge potential as a country. I find it counter-productive to celebrate losing and just be happy about a second half performance, in which we only had one shot ricocheting off the bar from the boot of Phiwa Dlamini.

We cannot lower our standards when we have scaled dizzy heights in former coach, Harries ‘Madze’ Bulunga’s era before his contract was controversially not renewed. We all know why his contract was not renewed and at this point it would be pointless to keep going back to that issue.
Granted, no right thinking soccer fan expected Sihlangu to win on Sunday. Even if we had hired Pap Guardiola, he would not have turned us into this formidable outfit overnight to be able to shock the highly-technical and tactically-savvy Tunisians. But at least we should have selected our best team to face the Tunisians.
That’s my gripe.


Coach Anthony Mdluli’s gobbledegook excuse of players who deserve to be in the national team being inactive came back to bite us you-know-where.
The excuse stinks from hell all the way to heaven because if anything, it is the Swallows players who have been most active in the off-season due to their CAF Champions League campaign. These include the likes of Felix Badenhorst, Sandile ‘Nkomishi’ Ginindza and Sanele Mkhweli, who have signed with National First Division teams in South Africa.


Why they were left out is still a mystery to me. I still feel we did not select our best team to play the Tunisians even though there is no guarantee we would have won. But the silly excuse of players being ‘inactive’ didn’t help matters either.


Obviously, tactically we were exposed and it’s not surprising because our head coach, Anthony Mdluli’s record as a coach does not make for riveting reading. Obviously, he was thrown into the deep end and he went headlong hook, line and sinker.


This, I hope, is a lesson to the appointing fingers at Sigwaca House that they cannot continue to treat the national team as their own private property. Most importantly, that as long as we continue to cut corners, ignore proper development structures with systematic monitoring we will keep on changing coaches for donkey years without making any strides.


We need not just a new coach to set up a proper structure but a Technical Director to give us a blue-print of the direction our football should take. In the past, we had the Germany Embassy willing to assist in this regard and perhaps it is time we knock on those doors again for technical assistance.


We are sliding back to mediocrity at an alarming rate. I cringed in embarrassment when our so-called medical doctors were pushed away by a medical personnel from the Tunisian team after one of our players Siboniso Ngwenya got a head injury. Clearly, the Tunisian medical team personnel realised our First AID people were ill-equipped and inexperienced to deal with such a serious medical problem.

These are the issues we should have long addressed especially in the senior national team. So, clearly, we cannot be just happy that we played better in the second half and lost 2-0 to the number one ranked country in Africa.

A loss is a loss. In the bigger scheme of things, our dream of making a first appearance in the biennial continental showpiece, the Africa Cup of Nations, has been shattered inspite of having got a credible away draw in Niger.
Thanks to maladministration, poor selection and a technical bench walking on shaky tactical grounds.
We have dug our own grave. How sad.

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