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MBABANE – ‘Let’s support football and not individuals’. That was a statement by the country’s most decorated coach, Thabo ‘Koki’ Vilakati in response to the national team Sihlangu Semnikati supporters who carried placards calling for the head coach in Serbian Kostadin Papic to be fired.

He was also addressing the question of some coaches seemingly against the Serb after being one of the coaches called and asked about the situation as Sihlangu crashed out of the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers at the hands of a less fancied Djibouti on Tuesday afternoon. Sihlangu failed to win the home match instead finished goalless when they had lost 1-2 away last Wednesday.

“I didn’t make it to the stadium but saw the match on YouTube and to be honest truth must be told. We are quick to seek results. Yes, at a higher level like that there’s too much pressure and expectation but I would say he deserves to be given a chance.


“The argument would be others have been sacked before for lack of results but our boys are gelling now and they are happy under him. Results are always important and it’s like coaching the big teams where results matter but let’s support Papic. I believe the fans were frustrated as it’s been long since we last had a win,” he said.

When Vilakati was made aware that some local coaches were reluctant to commit themselves on national team issues for various reasons including the accusation that Papic has not asked for their assistance among others, he wondered what that had to do with results.
“In football we chose the wrong sport because everyone’s opinion is right. Someone will tell you this about a player while another says something else about same player. Let’s support football and not individuals,” he said.


Vilakati added that no coach was bigger than the other and Papic must also engage them especially because the players were from the teams they coached. Meanwhile, Moneni Pirates and National Under-17 coach Gcina ‘Magiyane’ Dlamini, who also missed the match, said it would be folly to relieve Papic of his duties when all that was needed was support.

“The coach just needs our trust, support and confidence as a nation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dlamini’s Pirates will tomorrow take on Vilakati’s former side Manzini Wanderers in the MTN Premier League at Somhlolo National Stadium. The latter is linked with a move to his home team, Mbabane Highlanders but denied any deal was concluded when asked about it yesterday.

Mbabane Swallows’ assistant Musa Manyatsi could only feel for the fans saying ‘it was painful for the fans…looking at the opposition’. There was no immediate comment from Papic. A few other coaches refused to commit themselves in national team issues citing different reasons that in more ways than one show they were not fully behind the Serbian.

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