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‘BUFFS’ CIRCUS REFLECTIVE OF OUR FOOTBALL

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My dearest readers ...

Many moons ago, my History teacher, Miss Radebe at St Christopher’s High School, spoke so passionately about the Great Trek when some 12 000 to 14 000 Boers from Cape Colony in South Africa between 1835 and the early 1840s, emigrated, in rebellion against the policies of the British government and in search of fresh pasturelands.

I was a naughty schoolboy who couldn’t be bothered why the descendants of that axis of evil, Hendrik Verwoerd took between five to six months with their slow moving wagons as if they were snails that had suddenly got their gym membership revoked.  Little did I know that 27 years later, I would have to read about an-almost similar incident when our CAF Confederation Cup representatives, Young Buffaloes got dizzy, transgressing between Oshoek Border Gate and OR Tambo International Airport three times, covering almost 2 000 kilometres, but still couldn’t get to Tunis, the land of sandy beaches and historical attractions.

After initially leaving on Thursday for the clash slated for this past Sunday against Tunisia’s Etoile Du Sahel, ‘Amathole Ezinyathi’ not only spent a night in Johannesburg awaiting a correspondence from Tunisia which would have allowed them to enter the lockdown country, but they had to return home on Friday when the so-called ‘correspondence’ didn’t come through. Then again on Saturday morning at 10am, they embarked on another 400 kilometres journey to Johannesburg, the city fathered by gold and mothered by money, then commandeered by white men with cruelty and greed, as Rapulana Seiphemo rightly described it in the Jerusalem movie. Again, being armed with only the correspondence from CAF General Secretary Moroccan Hajji Moud, was not enough as they still needed a letter from the Tunisian Government allowing them into the country they had to reluctantly return home.

Before you lose track of the consequence of events, they returned home – now that is Saturday afternoon - having spent two hours or so admiring the gigantic OR Tambo International Airport, Africa’s busiest airport which handles at least 28 million passengers annually.

Again, on Sunday morning, having got information that the Eswatini Football Association (EFA) had finally received a notification of the permission to enter Tunisia they left the country for Tunis, via Doha, Qatar. 

It sounds like a fairytale, but this was drama in real life. How did all this happen when we had a team in Mbabane Swallows, who have been to Tunis and knew all the logistics needed? Why didn’t the two teams share notes or rather, why didn’t Buffaloes seek assistance in the travelling logistics?

Therein lies the rub.

The circus, which would have shamed even Brian Boswell, we saw this week speaks to the leadership poverty we have in our football. Here is a simple case of a team preparing to travel to a country that needs, a visa, and a letter of confirmation given the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Tunisia. Why did they even travel to Johannesburg in the first place without the paperwork/documentation sorted out?

reflection

This is the reflection of the kind of football administrators we have. The know-it-all attitude and air of self-entitlement, which had been cruelly exposed in this case when a simple call to the man who organised all these trips for a team like Mbabane Swallows in Dumezweni Dlamini, would have been of great assistance. The dearly departed Mbabane Swallows chairman, Victor ‘Maradona’ Gamedze (may his soul repose peacefully) realised his management committee needed to be capacitated when it came to the CAF Inter-club competitions and enlisted the services of Dumezweni Dlamini, a man who has the black and white of Mbabane Highlanders running in his veins. Gamedze put club allegiance aside because Dumezweni from his workplace was exposed to such travels and would prove to be of great value, which he was. Him and Nqobile Magagula from Eswatini Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (EPTC) would have been like an ‘advanced party’ for Swallows during their CAF sojourns so that they could sort out all the paperwork, accommodation and diet issues long before the team embarked on its travels. Why didn’t Buffaloes do the same?

This is an embarrassment to the country and it reflects badly on our football. You can’t even blame the COVID-19 pandemic. Long before Etoile Du Sahel came here, Buffaloes should have done a lot of research for the away second leg tie and they would have known that the whole North African country is under lockdown. Then, they would have planned ahead. For me, the embarrassing events of the past week, speaks to poor planning, lack of co-ordination and generally poor administration. We are quick to bestow ‘titles’ to our football officials like Chief Operations Officer (COO) or Chief Executive Officer (CEO) yet these people fail to deliver on the bare minimum of their portfolios. Dressing them in borrowed robes! 

pinnacle

The leadership poverty in our football starts at club level then manifests itself when it comes to the pinnacle when we have to get leaders for both the Eswatini Football Association and Premier League of Eswatini (PLE).  It is an indictment to those in leadership that we have to scratch our heads each time we have to elect a chairperson for the PLE and Executive Committee members such that we scrap the bottom of the barrel. That’s why we have people now in top positions who, to be honest, do not deserve to be there, but in the absence of the best, the worst becomes the best.

It’s a sad state of affairs. Look around at the calibre of football officials we have even at the so-called Big Three teams. It’s a crying shame. Some of them cannot run their own lives, but we expect them to deliver for our football.

Buffaloes’ sad episode should be a lesson to all. A lot of our football officials talk about playing in Africa, but this is no child’s play. It involves a lot of research, planning, paying attention to detail, resources and being streetwise. By the time you read this, Young Buffaloes would have been sent packing out of the tournament and probably starting another ‘GREAT TREK’ back home. Phew!

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