Mbabane, Swaziland | 21 May 2014
Let me start this week’s column by offering a hearty congratulations to Swaziland’s national football team.
I ventured along to Somhlolo Stadium last Sunday for the match against Sierra Leone and was inspired by the effort of the Swazi players.
I thought the captain, Tony ‘TT’ Tsabedze, played a true skipper’s match.
Tsabedze was reliable and tenacious, continually out-stepping, out-thinking and out-playing the Sierra Leone players.
That said, I know many fans at the stadium were disappointed not to come away with the victory, having to settle instead with a 1-1 draw.
The disappointment was more acute knowing Swaziland had about 80 percent of the play in the second half, with many more shots on (or near) goal.
But it was a gallant draw; a victory in all spheres but the scoreboard.
And if it weren’t for the early Sierra Leone goal, aided by a nervous defensive header, Swaziland may well have won comfortably.
The reality, though, saw Swaziland working hard for an equaliser after an early lapse in judgment.
Now I won’t pretend to call myself a Swazi, but I must admit to feeling a pang of patriotism as Sihlangu lobbed in that well-deserved equaliser. (It may have been a deflection from an opposition player’s leg, but I couldn’t be sure. Either way, a goal’s a goal.)
It was difficult not to get caught up in the jumping and excitement of the crowd.
Less exciting, however, was the stain left on my trousers when, in the midst of the jubilant post-goal celebrating, the pork seasoning and chakalaka fell onto my lap.
It’ll be tough to get that noticeable blemish out, but it was worth it. One can’t have regrets for mess made during celebrations.
I should add my own deflection here. From time to time, this columnist might have been accused of being overly sarcastic or ironic (is it ironic that I don’t understand the definition of irony?) but on this occasion there is not a drop of either.
I truly thought it was a great fighting effort, notwithstanding the result.
From where I was sitting – on a slightly dirty seat – the team put their best foot forward and didn’t leave anything on the pitch (apart from some grazed Sierra Leone skin after a few wayward tackles.)
They didn’t ‘die with the music in them’, as the sporting cliche goes.
Now some may call all this condescending or settling for something less than victory. I don’t believe it is either. I saw an honest and gritty sporting spirit in the Swazi payers last Sunday.
To conclude in theme of sport, let me overstep my remit and, in the name of said sport, add a few (jargon) words of unsolicited advice. Advice, I might add, from a bloke whose only football fame came from a Wednesday afternoon social league with the fellas back in 2010.
They used to call me ‘Golden Boot’.
Or was it ‘Holden Ute’ – my bakkie that was usually blocking others from getting out of the car park.
Anyway, here goes the jargon-filled advice: The playing group gave it 110 percent and left nothing on the pitch. If the coaching unit made a few structural and strategicadjustments and implemented a dynamic framework of delivery systems then victory would have been a more likely outcome.
This column was published in the Times of Swaziland on 21 May 2014