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It has been an eventful start to the third month of the year.

The temptation to address all the things that happened in the past year will always be there. It is no use wasting ink on some of these issues, especially the dreadful performance of faltering giants Manzini Wanderers. They know what to do after the shambolic showing against fellow strugglers Denver Sundowns. Forget the 7-0 demolition of Manchester United by Liverpool this past Sunday; losing 0-5 to Sundowns by such a huge margin is unacceptable for Wanderers. Credit should be given to Green Mamba for making a strong statement about their intention to challenge for the league honours.

Coach Ernest Mavuso is maturing with time like good wine and he is proving to be a man for the big stage. Seasoned gaffer Caleb Ngwenya’s transformation of Mbabane Swallows within a short space of time has also not gone unnoticed. With eight games to go, Swallows have ensured the title race remains wide open. With a game in hand against Nsingizini Hotspurs tomorrow, Young Buffaloes, on the other hand, are still very much in it. After dropping points in the 1-all draw against table-proppers Seven Dreams this past weekend, the army side need to respond quickly to ‘keep up with the big boys.’ Among the topical issues of the past week was the 45-minute continuation of the abandoned clash between Sea Birds and Madlenya FC at KaLanga Technical Centre in Siteki last Wednesday.

It turned out to be a circus as both teams protested before the start of the game. While Sea Birds challenged the replay altogether, they stretched it further when they started protesting about the unavailability of Njabulo Maziya, who was sold to Young Buffaloes. The drama did not end there, as Sea Birds further protested about the weather. Yes, you heard it right; the weather became a subject for the protest. In a nutshell, Sea Birds were short of saying they wanted back the sunny weather from the initial fixture. “Furthermore, the conditions are not the same because even the weather has changed. Today is not the same one as the unfinished game. It was raining but today is it very hot. So, the hot conditions will affect our players,” protested Sea Birds.

Madlenya, on the other hand, had protested that two of Sea Birds’ players had no playing cards. It will be interesting how the premier league handles this one. The decision to order the 45-minute replay itself is against the rules. It is an exciting challenge to deal with for the elite football office because the decision taken will act as a precedent. Outside these incidents, there were also episodes that painted an unwanted picture of Eswatini football. Reports of players sharing soccer boots in one of the games at Prince of Wales Sports Ground were not only disturbing but ridiculous. This is the premier league not Ntabinezimpisi or Fourth Division. Speaking of Prince of Wales Sports Ground, Mbabane Swallows finally realised their long cherished dream of hosting closer to home when they played against Madlenya this past Saturday.

It is no secret that hosting at King Sobhuza II Memorial Stadium in Nhlangano in the absence of Somhlolo National Stadium is a drain on the team’s coffers. It is also costly for the supporters outside Shiselweni as they need extra cash for transport on top of a match day ticket. However, based on the past weekend’s developments; playing at Prince of Wales for Swallows has turned out not to be the best decision after all. Reports suggested that over 100 fans managed to peep through the walls and watched the games for free. There are also reports suggesting that this move has cost Swallows thousands of Emalangeni. The actual losses had not been quantified at the time of compiling this report. When it comes to Prince of Wales, the concern about the venue hosting big teams stretches beyond gate collections. With fans struggling to accept results of late, there is a serious security risk.

There are no barriers separating the field from the standing area, which puts the lives of both the match officials and players at risk. A Bible-sized book is required to list the challenges of having big teams at Prince of Wales. Some teams are forced to use their buses as ‘dressing rooms.’ This cannot be allowed to happen at the time when a television magazine show is being broadcast to millions on SuperSport. With Somhlolo National Stadium expected to reopen in April, the big teams should sacrifice and host outside Prince of Wales in the meantime. Reputational damage that can happen as a result of an incident at Prince of Wales can cost more than the expenses of hosting away from Mbabane. NB: Comments are most welcome at ashmondnzima85@gmail.com

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