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It was interesting to hear Eswatini Football Association (EFA) President Peter ‘Samora’ Simelane being interviewed online by the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) this past week. He was put in the spotlight alongside his colleagues from the region.

He spoke with enthusiasm, as he shared what the country was doing to develop the sport. While he also discussed briefly on Sihlangu’s chances in the ongoing 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Qualifiers, the main area of interest was football development. After all, that was something that had to be registered at the back of his mind when he was elected the country’s football head honcho 345 days ago. During the interview on the COSAFA podcast, the president shared some of the programmes in place to develop the game. One would argue that he spoke mainly of juniors’ tournaments after doing a breakdown of some of national and regional events that are randomly staged seasonally. Never mind that these juniors’ tournaments are mainly played in southern Hhohho. Alone they cannot constitute development.


EFA knows what to do to develop football, so this is not the right time to teach a fish how to swim. Juniors’ tournaments alone are not football development–period.  It will be pointless to waste more ink on this issue, as it has been discussed several times on many forums. This brings us to the subject of the moment – Sihlangu’s journey to the AFCON finals to be played in Ivory Coast in June next year. The nation is in celebratory mood, following what has been dubbed a gallant display by Sihlangu in the comeback 2-all draw with Togo. Getting a point on the road against a feared and star-studded side that had won 6-0 in the last meeting gave the nation a reason to believe that the time to qualify for Africa’s premier football tournament for the very first time was now. Having scored in three of his last four international outings, 30-year-old Sihlangu marksman, Sabelo Ndzinisa’s spearheaded the Dominic Kunene’s troops’ comeback with another goal before a stunner deep into stoppage time by grafter Siboniso ‘Gaxa’ Ngwenya.

While the result was encouraging and gave a glimmer hope to a nation craving to see the country’s flagship team competing in the AFCON finals; we cannot ignore the elephant in the room. This is none other the unavailability of Eswatini internationals for the match due to ‘administrative’ reasons. Eswatini currently boasts only two internationals in Angola-based Bonginkhosi ‘Manyovu’ Dlamini and Justice ‘Figa’ Figuareido. The latter is attached to South Africa’s football second-tier side Cape Town All Stars who are currently involved in Premier Soccer League (PSL) relegation/promotion play-offs.


While ‘Manyovu’ reportedly arrived late in camp and got dropped; the issue of Figuareido left much to be desired. There were disturbing reports coming from All Stars suggesting that the player was not requested. At the end, he continued to play and score for his team in the play-offs, while Sihlangu had a crucial assignment in Togo. He is even doubtful for today’s clash to be played in South Africa against Burkina Faso. Without the undermining the ability of the local-based players; the inability to sort out the ‘Figa’ issue left one with one major question. Do we have a communication challenge at Sihlangu? Imagine if Eswatini had five or more internationals and they got left out of a game because of a communication challenge. That is unacceptable-period.  Today it can appear like a ‘little’ mistake but the consequences can be big.

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