Home | Sports | DID ‘BIRDS’ JUMP THE GUN?


Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font

MBABANE – Experienced Mbabane Swallows’ assistant coach and physical trainer Siyabonga Bhembe was last Thursday given a letter terminating his two-year contract at the Mbabane giants.

The decision caught the football fraternity by surprise because poor performance was cited as the reason that the coach was shown the exit door. The Times Sports Desk takes a look at what makes Bhembe one of the best in the country and why letting him go now is not a good decision.

Good physical trainer
The well-respected fitness trainer has a proven track record, having worked with Swallows before going to Mbombela United, Mbabane Highlanders and Denver Sundowns, where he was able to sharpen the players’ fitness levels. Bhembe’s arrival at the ‘Birds Nest’ came at a time when many supporters of the team were not happy with the way the team was playing and many going as far as saying that the team had lost its identity. His arrival seemed to have reignited the spark of the yesteryear Swallows team that was once feared and the mood was once again back in a team that had started the season very bad. Under his spell, the was a big difference in the way that the team started to play and many players who had the pressure of the supporters wanting them out, were able to get the monkey off their back as players like Felix Badenhorst, for example, got their fitness levels back and started to shine.

Bringing back winning mentality
Swallows had played three games at the start of the 2021/22 season, losing two games to Leopard and Green Mamba and drawing 2-all with Vovovo. The arrival of Bhembe at the helm not only restored dignity and confidence in the players, but brought back smiles on the hundreds of Swallows fans. His first game was against a tricky Tambuti side and the Mbabane giants won that game 2-0, with Felix and Bashiri winning the game in welcoming the coach who went on with current coach Manyatsi to play a total of 37 MTN Premier League matches, winning 23, drawing nine times and only losing just five times.  The statistics are totally different from ‘the poor performance’ excuse for firing him.

Wonder returns from retirement
It had appeared that the Mbabane Swallows veteran winger Wonder ‘Samba Jive’ Nhleko had been allegedly forced to retire earlier than he had anticipated; the arrival of coach Siyabonga bought back Nhleko in the game. The coach has always shown to have a personal relationship with soccer players and him bringing back ‘Samba Jive’ back to the team proved to have worked wonders, as the player went on to win the supporter’s player of the year having only played just a second round of the MTN Premier League matches.

Gives younger players a chance
Mbabane Swallows have always been known even from the yesteryears that the team played with mostly readily trained the players, but Bhembe gave younger players a chance to play.
Players like Sizolwethu Shabalala, Nhlanhla Ngwenya, Leon Manyisa and Ayanda Gadlela have been given a chance to get game time and were able to repay him by displaying good performance in helping the team record a 25-game unbeaten run, a record not easy to keep especially in the MTN Premier League, with teams all having greatly improved their squads.  

25-game unbeaten run
The last game that Mbabane Swallows lost before losing to both Nsingizini Hotspurs and Mbabane Highlanders was back in January 2022 against rivals Highlanders, which saw former striker Sabelo ‘Sikhali’ Ndzinisa coming back to haunt his former employers in the Mbabane derby. Since then, Swallows had been immaculate, notching 17 wins, seven draws, scoring an avalanche of 42 goals and conceding just a mere 12 goals in the run. This impressive streak began on January 29, defeating Tinyosi at home 2-1 with a brace from legendary captain Tony ‘TT’ Tsabedze. The Musa Manyatsi-led side, under the guidance of physical trainer Bhembe also as an assistant coach, played a total of 25 games and remained unbeaten almost a halfway mark of the 51 games unbeaten run that lasted two seasons four years back.

Bringing back the spark in players
Players like Badernhorst, Nhleko, Sizolwethu, Kingsley, and Nhlanhla Ngwenya have been able to yield positive display under Coach Bhembe, who has shown to have a great belief in them. What can be triggered as the big impact in the players’ recent displays can be attributed to the physical trainer’s tremendous work behind the scenes. Players like Kingsley for example, were seen as not good quality for the club due to his performance. The former Denver Sundowns defender was consistently getting unnecessary cards and causing penalties for the red and white ensemble. The arrival of the physical trainer brought back to life the player’s fitness levels and was timely with his marking around the box, proving wrong many supporters that were questioning his quality at the club.

A charismatic father figure
Bhembe is a quality coach; he loves his job; he is committed and he can interact with players. “He is an inspiration and he has a lot of knowledge in football and in life in general, where he can help players with their personal issues.” That’s what a Mbabane Swallows player said on condition of anonymity when describing Bhembe. It has been proven that at big clubs like Mbabane Swallows you need someone who is going to be a leader‚ a father figure and be able to inspire the players by making them believe that they can win matches. Basically, charisma is nothing more than a gentler way of exercising power and this coach has shown traits of being a coach with leadership skills. In general, soccer players who work around a charismatic coach often feel satisfied, enjoy their work and perform better as a result.

Swallows culture restored
One of the many reasons that Swallows supporters were not happy about besides the team not winning matches was that the Swallows DNA was lost. The coach was not afraid to say that he wanted to build a team that is ruthless and restore Swallows to their former glory. That involves starting to represent the vision of how the team must play. Under his guidance, Swallows started to be back to their former self that includes playing with aggression, full of speed and being dangerous on the counter attack. Under the tutelage of Ghana-born Christopher Ennin and Honour Janza, the team was playing  more possession football without more penetration.

Bhembe’s ability to instil a winning mentality into the Swallows team is more derived from his ambition as a human being. All players who have worked with the coach can attest to this. They usually say he is a difficult coach to work with. He does not allow complacency to creep in; he wins today and wants to win tomorrow. That has helped Swallows to be on the 25-game unbeaten run since his arrival. Perhaps if Swallows can have a bit more patience, Bhembe could have built on his first season (where he succeeded in bringing through a number of confidence in the players) found the team on the ninth position and fished in position three last season, just four points behind eventual winners, Royal Leopard.

It should also be highlighted that this season Mbabane Swallows are in position six, just a mere three points behind log leaders Young Buffaloes who are on 19 points. He looked to achieve more success in his second season. Perhaps it was a premature decision to say ‘Siyabonga’ to Bhembe who looked destined to restore the Mbabane Swallows dignity in memory of the late Victor ‘Maradona’ Gamedze.

Comments (0 posted):

Post your comment comment

Please enter the code you see in the image: