CONGRATULATIONS SIHLANGU!!

First, I would like to congratulate our beloved national football team, Sihlangu Semnikati, for their heroics away
from home. The team has qualified for the next round of the CAF African Nations Championships (CHAN) for the first time since the tournament commenced in 2007, making a piece of history against all odds. Kudus go to the technical
team, management and players for working as a unit to achieve this feat. Coach Kostadin Papic has proven very effective on motivation, managing to make the players keep on believing even after missing on an opportunity to make their home advantage count. The coach’s Big Match Temperament seemed to rub onto the players’ characters, making them believe that progressing to the next level was still possible even away from home. It is good to see a
new crop of young players putting their best foot forward as future heroes. The likes of Sandile ‘Saviola’ Gamedze have come out to stake a claim to stardom, and the young man needs every support he can get to move to the next level. Of course, this is a team that has achieved better in the past, and for the new crop of players, this is only the beginning of another wave of success that, we hope, could last longer. In football, a team is only as good as its last game. Now that the team has managed to move to the next round begins a new challenge, and what’s worse, the nation’s expectations will grow with every win. Winning never gets to a level where we can all say ‘Oh that’s enough; now we can rest and celebrate a bit’. A case in point is Manchester City, whom I must congratulate also for winning what will go down in history as the greatest title race of all time. It was not surprising to hear Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola congratulate Liverpool for pushing them all the way. Both teams won their last 14 or so matches in the race to the title, a breathless journey that must have put untold pressure on both managers and players, with
just a point separating them all the way. One moment, Liverpool would be on top; the next, Manchester City would take over. I have no doubt that the experience will leave both managers and their players much stronger going forward. When nothing could be done to win the trophy, Liverpool graciously accepted City’s win of the championship, focusing on celebrating their resounding victory over Wolves, instead of mourning what should have been. In the eyes of fans and foes, Liverpool were worthy of praise as the decision had long been out of their hands. It was good to see one of the world’s most supported teams bowing out with pride. Jurgen Klopp has endeared himself at Anfield, and will go down in history as one of the greatest managers of the Reds, especially if he clinches the Uefa Champions League trophy in Madrid in June. The Reds remained consistent throughout their campaign
and, barring the unforeseen, they should be able to beat a highly-motivated yet not-so-strong Tottenham team that has often stumbled where it matters most. It was disappointing to see Juventus, on the other hand, crumbling to a determined AS Roma when there was nothing to play for. The team’s display put paid to discipline, and was serious betrayal to their fans who part with their hard-earned money to support them in every match. In all these things,
there is so much to learn for the Swati footballer who wants to compete in the professional ranks. Closer home, it was good to see Orlando Pirates fighting to the death, only losing the title to a better organized and experienced
Mamelodi Sundowns. From the look of things, Pirates will be a force to reckon with next season; while the same cannot be said of one of the biggest clubs in Africa, Kaizer Chiefs, who for the first time since recent memory finished 9th. This was a disaster. While it is comforting to find scapegoats for such poor performance, Chiefs failed to compete, for obvious reasons: they are reluctant to sign good players who come at a price, but instead go
for players who are past their sell-by date. Chiefs will have their fortunes turn for the better the moment they
use their abundant resources to compete in the transfer market. You could go back many years – they signed Katlego Mphela when he was past his prime; they signed Khama Billiat when his form had dipped and Sundowns no longer needed him; they let Knowledge Musona, David Mathebula and Tefu Mashamaite go when they badly needed him; talk of shooting yourself in the foot. It’s a vicious cycle that will haunt Amakhosi until they change their player recruitment and retention policy. In the meantime, let’s wait and see who wins the league here at home.

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