MINISTER URGES PAPIC TO RESTORE NATION’S PRIDE

MINISTER URGES PAPIC TO RESTORE NATION’S PRIDE

Minister Harries ‘Madze’ Bulunga, fresh from taking the national team to its highest world ranking ever as head coach, has assured newly appointed mentor Kostadin Papic of his unwavering support as he attempts to restore the team’s fortunes. Minister Bulunga urged Papic to aim for an improved showing against one of Africa’s best footballing nations, Tunisia, come March 22, where Sihlangu face their counterparts in an away clash that is all but a formality. But Minister Bulunga does not think the game is a formality at all, as he believes it presents an early opportunity for both coach and team to impress and get the people to return to the stadia in their numbers, a thing that was fast-dwindling following back-to-back poor results. The Minister of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs said they were aware of the situation currently engulfing the national team, causing the nation to lose hope. He said words would not bring back people to the stadium, but a convincing showing in Tunisia under a new coach might just do the trick. “The past year was not a good one for the national team. Results were very negative and, unfortunately football is about results; when you win, every one associates with the team, but when you lose,
people step back.” Bulunga said they believed the Eswatini Football Association (EFA) had brought the right candidate for the coaching position in Papic, who brings vast experience at the highest level, having coached both Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs over and above his international experience. “We are expecting the coach to develop the team that we have. We trust that since he has almost two months in the country, he now understands the local game enough to pick deserving players who will serve the nation well into the future. We cannot expect miracles on his first game, which unfortunately is against one of the best teams in Africa. But we want to see a positive change that will give us hope that, going forward, the team will perform well and bring people back
to the stadiums,” the minister said. Eswatini is placed fourth in group J, having played poorly against the likes of Egypt, Niger and Tunisia. Sihlangu’s best result was a goal less draw against Niger. In another development, the minister expressed appreciation for the E15 million budget allocated to sports, explaining that, while it was not what they would have ideally preferred, under the circumstances where the economy was not performing well, it would go far. “The allocation is not a surprise to us as we are part of government and we are aware of the financial
challenges government is currently facing and, as cabinet, we are working around the clock to have a quick turn-around. Until such time that things stabilize, we need to utilise what we have,” he said.

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