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HOSTING COSAFA U-20 COULD RE-LAUNCH FOOTBALL – KENNY

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I have not gone through the Bible with a fine toothcomb, but in the Book of Psalms 78;72, it does states that: “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.”

In more ways than one, the verse best sums up what former Manzini Wanderers player Ronny Kenny has turned his football life to – empowering the youth and getting them to be the best version of themselves with the integrity of his heart and skilfulness of his hands. His FC South Kings Academy, which is supported by his construction company, Kenny Ronny Consulting cc, is doing a commendable job in South Africa. In the beginning, special focus was on grooming goalkeepers, which is one area that has been neglected for far too long, but on the broader scale, it is to produce future soccer stars hence the birth of the FC South Kings Academy.

This is not surprising because this is what tickles the fancy of the former Denver Sundowns and Home Sparrows player. “The love for young talent inspired me to give back by getting involved in football. As you are aware, every child aspires to be the next Mbazo Gamedze or Doctor Khumalo,’ he says matter-of-factly.
Kenny shares his views on why Eswatini football has remained softer than a marshmallow and why we currently have no international worth the tag. Ladies and gentlemen, we have another LiSwati (after Mpumelelo ‘Flamingo’ Gamedze) in the Chairman’s Chair who is doing great things on a foreign land especially in the development aspects of the game which is awfully missing in our football.

Times: Tell us, who is Ronny Kenny?
RONNY KENNY (RN): Ronny Kenny is a father and a husband. He is an entrepreneur and qualified soccer coach. Ronny is a mentor for aspiring soccer players and entrepreneurs. He is a hustler and a believer that hard work and dedication pays off.

Times: Give us your football background?
RN: I started playing soccer as early as Grade VII, at primary school level. I then joined Home Sparrows at high school level, where I played with the likes of Berger ‘Hotline’ Nxumalo, whom I also played with at Manzini Wanderers. Thereafter, I briefly played for Denver Sundowns. While at Sundowns, learnt a lot from the likes of Fannie Terblanche, whom I am still in touch with to date. My journey at Manzini Wanderers was only complete after I was coached by the late Dodge Mahlalela. We had the best team then. We won the league during my second season there. I then left for the then Delta Stars under coach Gomora, which had been recently promoted to the Premier league. I enjoyed my stay at Delta Stars. From 2002, I played in KZN under former Tuks and Amazulu coach, Zipho Dlangalala.

(Question from a reader; Emma nxumalo): You have a soccer academy in sa. How did you start it? What motivated you? How are you keeping it afloat?
RN: Football has always been my passion. The love for young talent inspired me to give back by getting involved in the football. As you aware, every child aspires to be the next Mbazo Gamedze or Doctor Khumalo. After a discussion with my Wife, Sindie Kenny, we felt that we needed to give back to the community for the growth of the business, and how best to give back through my passion for soccer. To date, we are sponsoring Grassroots Goalkeeper Academy through our business, a construction company. This gave birth to FC South Kings, which we run together with Mr. Andane Ramaphosa.  A challenge for any academy or club is finance. Through Kenny Ronny Projects we have managed to finance the day-to-day running of the club, and with help of the parents of the players. I am proud to say that through my involvement in the game, I am now involved with Grassroots Goalkeeper Academy, based in Rustenburg, together with Daniel Ngomane, where we strictly focus on goalkeepers.

Times: What are your short-term and long-term goals?
RN: My short-term goal is to buy a soccer status (negotiations are in place with someone selling a club). We are going to turn it into a flag ship academy and cater for broader needs for soccer players. My long-term goal is to forge a partnership internationally, where we will export players, and this is already in the pipeline.

Times: Another liswati, mpumelelo ‘flamingo’ gamedze also has an academy, what advise would you give him?
RN: ‘Flamingo’ is my elder brother. We have spoken informally, because the soccer game is about exchanging experience and expertise. I am proud of what he has achieved and everything he is doing in his soccer career. I read the article on the big Chair and I truly support his vision on how we can take the game to the next level. My advice to him is, to never give especially when there are financial challenges in managing an Academy. Through passion and commitment of the soccer game, will always have to push beyond all obstacles.

Times: Having played in the eswatini premier league, what would you say are the challenges we are facing as a country? How can we resolve them?
RN: Having played in our home league, one main challenge is how we took long to professionalise our league. We were blessed to have an astute Chairman in the late Victor Gamedze, may his soul RIP. Gamedze had so much love for the football game. We need corporate companies to come on board and invest in our league. We have a lot of young coaches who are qualified, but need to be developed and given more exposure. We need to form partnerships with South African teams where possible. We also need to bring our coaches for attachment. I have discussed this informally with coaches back at home, as well as in South Africa. I hope when COVID-19 has subsided, we could launch them since we have the potential to be the best in southern Africa.

Times: Eswatini currently has no international player in sa’s psl yet in the past we had as many as four. What could be the challenge?
RN: I think we have let ourselves down, and the standard of football has dropped our passion for the game. We have a lot of talent at home, but who nurtures this young talent? What happens to our talented junior squads? Who monitors their development? If we look back at all our imports, ‘Yuki’  Masina, ‘Shisa’ Jr, Siza Dlamini, ‘Spoko’ Dlamini, just to name a few, where were they discovered? These are from Junior soccer leagues and school football leagues, which we now have neglected. We need to start doing more and talking less. As coaches, we need to know that the grassroot development is the most important phase in any player’s growth. I have few boys from home, whom I have taken under my wing, trying to get them into mainstream and uplifting the standard of the football in our country.

Times: As someone passionate about development, what does it mean for eswatini to host the cosafa under-20 youth championships?
RN: Hosting the cosafa Under-20 youth championships would be a great opportunity for us as a developing country, to re-launch our football and remind our neighbours that we still have great talent. Zimbabwe has produced more talent than us because, they have taken a step further in developing players. As coaches, we need to work together to produce quality players, as well as share knowledge. We need to educate ourselves more about the game because it is forever evolving.

Times: Do you have any aspirations of opening a soccer academy/coaching a team in eswatini?
RN: I do have an aspiration in opening an academy back home. Not just for me, but for every coach who loves the game to get involved. Few months ago, I was back home and watched a training session of young boys with ‘Spoko’ Dlamini. We agreed in principle that, we need to do more than what is currently being done, because we see the talent, but no one is nurturing the talent. I am also hopeful that together with other coaches that I constantly engage with at home, we will make this a possibility. As for coaching back at home, I am hoping to be involved technically, as I feel there is limited coverage in this area. There are few measures in place even though we expect positive results.

Times:  what drives you in your involvement in football development?
RN: Seeing a smile on any child is golden. We all have dreams and through sports, not only football, we can make a huge impact in uplifting our communities. This is one reason Kenny Ronny Consulting is involved in many social activities. We need to ‘pay it forward’ through our time or sponsorship.

Times: There has been a huge outcry on the dominance of the security forces teams, what’s your view?
RN: I do not support the view of the balance of security forces teams. I believe this has somehow killed our football. From the days I played soccer, their dominance with the promise of employment killed the game. How many good players have they signed and failed to manage? How many have lost their way in football? There is a need to balance the quota of players which can be signed, to keep the standard competitive. Players that are not being used, have to be given a chance to play for other teams free of charge. They also utilise government resources, unlike other teams who depend are dependent on sponsors.

Times:  Your former team, manzini wanderers, has not won a trophy in 16 years now, what do you think are the challenges and how can they overcome them?
RN: It is sad that this is what is happening to the once mighty ‘Weseli’ and it painful for me to watch our beloved team encountering such endless problems. As a team, they need stability with solid structure of people who not only know the game, but have the team’s interests at heart. The team has been blessed with good administrators before, but all these are not available anymore. The team needs to understand that for any institution to attract the best sponsors, it must have a credible structure. Once everything internally is in order, the team can attract all the best players like before. Without this, the team will be playing second best to other teams. I am happy that the team has administrators who love and know the team. The team also needs to tap into the knowledge of ex-players and not ignore their experiences.

Times: You were once linked with taking over as managing director at wanderers, what really happend?
RN: (Laughing) ... Rumours will always be there my brother and Wanderers will always be home. When I am invited to assist in any way, I am available. I used to come home as much as I possibly could to watch soccer training and games, until COVID-19 happened. I still believe there is a bigger role one can play as Wanderers is an institution, and only we can take it back to its glory days.

Times: your assessment on sihlangu, eswatini football in a nutshell?
RN: Our national team has not only stagnated, but we do not have endurance. We used to beat countries like Lesotho and other teams hands down, but now the tables have turned. Other countries took football seriously and like Lesotho, it employed Coach Thabo Senong (former SA Under 20 coach and now at sekhukhune), to turn their fortunes in the soccer space. Why are we failing to do that?  We have the knowledge to add to the improvement of our national teams and relationships with coaches who can assist. We had Coach Papic, who was good and he improved our standards, but what was our succession plan after that? We can do more and I trust in Frederick and his committee that we will rectify all this. I like their transparency as one gets to interact with them about football in our country.

Times: thanks for your time, Ronny
RN: It has been a pleasure Chairman. We are blessed to have football greatness in you. You have carried the baton from way back and still haven’t given up. It is time the tide change for the good of our football.

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